“A beautiful thing is never perfect.” Proverb
Unless your entire family gets together for weekly Sunday dinners, you are probably like most families in the 21st century: The holidays are likely one of the few times a year when everyone is gathered. As such, when you all get together each person is (mostly) on their best behavior.
It’s much like when couples in long-distance relationships get to see each other. Because your visits are infrequent and time is short, no one wants to do or say anything to rock the boat.
You want everything to be perfect.
Who can blame you! Our culture is obsessed with perfection.
It’s why your Facebook feed is filled with only the best moments of other people’s lives. It’s why you and I post the best of ours.
It’s why there is a proliferation of reality-tv and makeover shows that often, while entertaining and at times inspirational, leave you feeling like you and your life don’t quite measure up.
So, when you look into the literal and proverbial mirror, what’s reflected back isn’t perfection as you’ve defined it. Rather, it is perfection as someone else has defined it.
I bring this up because this is the elephant that will no doubt be in the room when you have your family financial meeting this holiday season. In fact, some family members may decline to participate because they have internalized the misguided belief that their finances need to be perfect.
And for the members who do participate, you may have to manage their need to be “prove” that they have everything together financially. Here’s how you’ll be able to spot these family members: they will have an answer to every question, and an opinion on how best to resolve every challenge.
Whether the family members you get to participate feel excited, slightly guarded or a combination of both, odds are this is true: Everyone is going to want to strut their stuff because being vulnerable isn’t easy – even within families.
To paraphrase Dr. Brene Brown, the focus on being perfect helps you to minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgement, and shame. As I understand Professor Brown’s work on vulnerability, perfection is a shield we use to protect our feelings and sense of self-worth.
After all, what will people think if what they think isn’t actually true?
Therefore, part of your job as facilitator is to set the tone and remind your family members that your finances don’t need to be perfect. Showcasing perfection isn’t the purpose or goal of this “family and money” experience.
Sure, please highlight and celebrate those family members whom are debt-free. And the ones whom contribute the maximum to their retirement plan each year. As well as the ones who have six to twelve-months of savings liquid. Along with the couples who easily have meaningful, beneath-the-surface conversations about money with each other.
But remember that what you’re celebrating in the above (and other) examples didn’t happen overnight. These family members practiced certain habits, and created a system and process that works for them, and use tools that match their personality and strengths. And, they made trade-offs.
This family meeting is an opportunity to ask them about all of this — to ask them how they’ve done it (not necessarily the nitty-gritty details in terms of absolute numbers). Much like the swipe file businesses exchange, this is the perfect setting to swap strategies and tactics.
It is so, so important to remember that having it more together than another person is not the same as being perfect.
We are all a work in progress.
That is why one of the things you’ll need to do – if you want to have a successful family financial meeting – is nip in the bud the notion that your personal finances need to be perfect! For this to happen effectively, though, you’ll need to acknowledge this propensity, and at the same time not feed into it.
Unlike reality-tv and makeover shows where their drama gets fixed rather quickly. Your life and mine are beautifully messy and complex – not exactly fertile ground for quick fixes. And there’s no room for perfection – especially as defined by someone else.
But there’s a ton of room for striving for excellence and wanting to do and be better! In my book, that’s way cool.
p.s. Did you grab your free PDF last week? It’ll help you plan and facilitate your family financial meeting and you can get it by clicking the below link.
p.p.s. It’s almost time for open enrollment, and I’d love to know what your 401k experience is like. Would you take this quick survey to let me know – click here.
Breaking Financial Silence Within Families... One Conversation at a Time
There's a smart way to initiate a family financial meeting. Find out how in this PDF.