This week, I saw a commercial for Christmas trees. My reaction: Why so soon? It’s the first week of October for goodness sake!

Truth is, the holiday season is nipping at our heels. And while I think it’s a wee-bit early for tree commercials, now is actually a pretty good time to start planning.

Whether that planning involves making travel arrangements; getting your home in order if you’re hosting; buying gifts; some combination thereof; or, all of the above. Getting started early will certainly help to reduce the stress and anxiety that is normal to feel during the season.

You know what else it’s a good time for? Planning for your family to talk about money!

There are some who believe the holidays are the absolute worst time to do this. Is this how you feel, too? Does your family side-step conversations about money? Do you shy away from them if another family member brings it up?

If so, you clearly aren’t alone.

“Nearly half of Americans say the most challenging topic to discuss with others is personal finances (44%), whereas death (38%), politics (35%), religion (32%), taxes (21%), and personal health (20%) rank as less difficult,” according to a 2014 Financial Health study by Wells Fargo.

The concatenation of family, money and the holidays can indeed be an emotional landmine that requires graceful navigation and maybe even negotiation. But families who avoid this terrain aren’t just avoiding an awkward moment or a potential argument.

Financial silence within families can…

  • limit the younger members from developing important financial life-skills and learning about what financial mistakes to avoid
  • jeopardize the financial security of its members (children and adults; singles and couples; working and retired)
  • stunt efforts to create and share generational wealth

I get why families avoid talking about money. It’s uncomfortable. It can often be riddled with shame and guilt…and judgment. It can amplify unresolved conflicts. It can reinforce (for good or bad) family roles and hierarchy (which may have nothing to do with birth order). It can cause folks to feel guarded and self-conscious about the state of their financial affairs.

But what I discovered about couples whilst researching and writing “Financial Intimacy,” also applies to entire families: You actually talk about money all the time; you’re just not having the right conversations.

You may talk about how much your flight or train ticket cost. But won’t share your savings goals.

You might brag about the investment that did well. But won’t also talk about the one where you lost your shirt.

You’ll exchange gifts. But will hide your money woes and how challenging buying those gifts were for you.

Or, you’ll address a current crisis. But will avoid preparing for the future and discussing estate planning – even in the most general terms.

So, you have the surface, transactional aspects of money covered. Beyond that, well…

Now, some families navigate conversations about money with aplomb. They don’t let that it’s uncomfortable stop them from discussing the full spectrum of financial experiences, results and expectations. And if your family is one of them, would you do me a favor? Share your approach with with at least one of your friends, and with me (by email or by posting a comment below).

For other families, they can’t fathom the idea of a family meeting about money at any time of the year – let alone during the holiday season.

This is particularly interesting when you consider that for most families, most conflicts and miscommunication occur not because too much was shared, but because too little.

By the way, I am not advocating talking money at the holiday dinner table (that would be crazy!). There’s a reason the title says “holiday season…”

What I am suggesting is that you carve out time during the holidays, which is probably one of the few times everyone is gathered in one place. And when you do, recognize that you’re not just talking about money and how to create and build upon our family’s financial legacy. This is also a beautiful chance to deepen everyone’s awareness of family history, connections, respect, appreciation and understanding.

In case you can’t tell, I am a bit sappy when it comes to families. I wish more families were less silent when it came to talking about all aspects of money. That’s because I believe the emotional and financial costs of avoiding these important conversations are often greater than they need to be. It’s also because I wholeheartedly believe that together, we can break the money taboo – one family at a time…one conversation at a time.

However, a family financial meeting does need a good communication plan.

Next week, I’ll share a few ideas on how you can take the lead to create this plan – whether it’s your first or umpteenth, and regardless of how much money you/your family has.

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