Money Silence Hurts Families

October 17, 2023

Money Silence Hurts Families

If you think talking about money with your spouse, parents, or children is difficult, you are not alone. Almost half of Americans would rather discuss their own death, politics, or religion than money with others. But money silence is costly and hurts families in several ways.

Money conflicts and financial problems among couples are a leading cause of divorce, second only to infidelity. More than two-thirds of families fail to pass wealth down to the next generation in large part due to lack of communication about finances. And less than half of adults have talked to their aging parents about whether they’ll have enough for the future, despite one in four Americans age 55+ having zero retirement savings. The good news is that breaking the harmful cycle of money silence is easier than you think. Here are three tips to get started on a healthier money talk journey with your loved ones.

1. Identify Your Money Talk Mindset.

Everyone has different beliefs about money conversations, which are often formed during childhood. How your parents and grandparents talked about money with/around you as a child has a big impact on your own money beliefs. Write down your answers to these questions to identify your own beliefs about money conversations, which author and money talk expert Kathleen Burns Kingsbury calls your “money talk mindset.”

  • My mother/father taught me that talking about money is:
  • Discussing money with my parents/children is:
  • The hardest/easiest financial topic to discuss is:

What patterns, strengths, and blind spots emerge?

2. Build Money Talk Skills.

If you’ve ever started a fitness journey, you are familiar with the pain that comes when you first exercise long-dormant muscles. Initially, there is some soreness as your body moves in new ways, but the pain recedes as you get stronger. Building money talk skills is similar: Your early attempts may not feel natural, but it gets easier and feels less stilted with regular practice. Here are a few ground rules to keep your money conversations on-track:

  • Don’t mind-read or make assumptions about how the other person thinks or feels.
  • Be curious, not judgmental, in the immortal words of Walt Whitman (via “Ted Lasso”).
  • Agree to disagree. Remember that your goal in any money conversation is to understand the other person and be understood in return, not to win an argument or score points in a debate.
  • Use “I statements” to avoid putting the other person on the defensive. Here’s an example: “When you do [a specific behavior], I feel [a specific emotion].”

3. Commit to Money Talk Action.

Small actions repeated consistently over time yield big results. In his book, “Atomic Habits,” best-selling author, James Clear, cautions readers not to start “too big” when making a change; it should be so easy that your success is guaranteed. Clear gives the example of starting with just one pushup a day if your goal is to improve upper body strength. Along those lines, Kathleen Burns Kingsbury suggests starting small with money talk action; begin by identifying one financial topic that is easy for you to talk about. Then ask a friend or family member one question related to that topic. Listen to their answer, share your own, and let a conversation emerge. When you start small, engaging in healthy money talk isn’t so scary!

What’s your money talk mindset? Are there money talk skills you want to build? Do you need a money talk action accountability partner? We’re here to help you on your healthy money talk journey.

Written by: Foster Group’s Ashlee Vieregger, JD, CFP, CFTA


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