Discussing money matters

These tips will help you to broach the difficult topic of money.

Discussing money matters

Talking about finances can be painful, as not everyone is happy to discuss how well they manage their money. But the festive season, when you’re together with family, can be the perfect opportunity for these more challenging conversations. Tread lightly and you and your family will be able to have an open and honest discussion.

Whether it’s your parents will, your children’s financial safety net, or your partners out of control spending, these tips will help you to broach the difficult topic of money.

It’s all about timing
While the issue may have been on your mind for some time, bombarding your adult children, or ageing parents, with questions about their finances the minute they walk in the door isn’t a good start. Nor is starting the conversation over Christmas turkey. A better approach is to privately gauge how amenable they are to the subject and then let them know you’d like to have a chat before you part.

Conversation, not criticism
Remember, whether it's your parents or your children, they’re adults and one way to put them offside is to criticise the way they manage their money. Talk to your mum about her will and ask if she needs any help. Discuss with your expectant son the importance of insurance. And if they’re not interested, back off.

Give a little, get a little
Let your family know a little about where you keep your financial documents and what arrangements you’ve made. If they feel you’re being open and honest with them, they will be more likely to reciprocate.

Slowly, slowly
Talk about one or two key issues at a time, rather than trying to solve all problems at once. You may want to talk to your parents about their hopes and preferences for their care as they age. While with your children, it may be easier to chat about their plans for getting a mortgage, or paying off their student loans. If it’s your partner’s spending which is on your mind, then suggest you set a common goal for the next year.

Listen and observe
Sometimes it’s the little comments, or signs, which indicate that things might not be going well. Are your father's clothes unkempt? Does he talk about struggling with the cost of day-to-day living? Or maybe you've noticed that your son isn’t driving his usual car, or is joking about borrowing too much money. Keep alert and you may discover what you need to know in order to start a much-needed conversation.


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    8th Dec 2015
    An excuse or picking the "right" time should not be needed to discuss financial management with family members. A topic as important to ALL family members as money matters is best being out and up front for the benefit of everyone, and at the earliest age when it is understood and retained for future economic decisions. The sooner one learns the value of monetary priorities, and the difference between needs and wants, the better off they and theirs will be in life.
    fish head
    8th Dec 2015
    I think you have nailed it, Fast Eddie. NEEDS and WANTS -too many people don't know the difference and lack the fortitude to apply the financial brakes. My mother's mantra - "if you can't pay cash you can't afford it."
    Nan Norma
    8th Dec 2015
    I wish it was that easy. And you do need to pick the right time.
    9th Dec 2015
    This is a serious situation which can destroy families, friendships, business partnerships, and even result in violence. Make sure you check your facts before you bring up the subject. Be very careful when, where, if, and how you broach the subject. This will very much depend on the person's personality, past behaviour, and state of mind.

    Every adult has the right to live their life as they wish - including changing their will or spending their own money - as long as they are not hurting others or doing anything illegal.

    However, if they have a spouse of underage children, they have responsibilities towards them and should be willing to discuss any concerns you may have. Pick a quiet time to point this out and ask how they will meet these responsibilities if things go bad. Make it clear that you will not be able to bail them out. If they respond badly or will not talk reasonably - start quietly taking protective measures.

    Keep records of everything - in a safe place - preferably away from the home. Tell a trusted friend what you are doing and where the records are stored. Investigate all financial records so you become fully aware of what has and is happening day-to-day. Talk to your accountant or solicitor if things look bad. Make sure all joint accounts or other business transactions require two signatures - not one or the other. Do not allow them to take out insurance on your life. Make sure your personal finances are not enmeshed in theirs. Have an amount of money set aside (in case of emergency). Be on the alert for attempts to get you to sign documents by stealth e.g. slipping them in amongst others awaiting signatures. Do not let them use your property as collateral. Do not go guarantor for anything they are doing financially e.g. starting a business or buying property. Do not enable them by providing money - you know that "loans" will be treated as "gifts".

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