The family team

Last week, I talked about coopetition and building your team of professionals.  Probably backwards, but what it brought up was a question about opening the conversation around money with your family.  The reason I became a financial coach was because some of the most difficult conversations I’d seen were those conversations (or lack of conversation) between parents and their children (of all ages) or between spouses.  This conversation can fold in lots of things that don’t belong there, and building up a normal habit that recognizes money as something that can support choices is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself – and your family.  And it’s not much different than assembling the team of professionals (okay, I hear you – “what is she talking about???”): play to each person’s strength, and be consistent.

How do you start? At the start – assess strengths: if there is a single breadwinner in the family, don’t assume s/he is also “best with money”.  In fact, for this exercise, don’t assume anything – really be clear: amount of time and level of interest are just as important as whether you can add or subtract.  If you like details and want to see a detailed accounting of income and expenses each month, and your spouse is a “big picture” story teller, recognize that those are complementary strengths and figure out how to operationalize them so that you both get what you want.  And once you’ve got that part of the team in place and comfortable working in their roles, bring in the kids (it’s never too early).  A recent NYTimes article (“Why You Should Tell Your Kids How Much Money You Make”) suggested one way to open up this conversation. There are other ways to achieve the same goal – being comfortable talking about money – which focus more on the choices you make or the values you support or your kids are developing – like talking about what each of you would do if you suddenly came into a lot more money than you were used to (“The Case for Buying A Powerball Ticket”).  You can make this  fun game to play on during a long car ride (what? take the earphones out?????) or at the once-a-week family dinner reserved for this very practice.  The conversation about money is, at its core, not about money – is it?  In these conversations, you will start to see your kids’ strengths and interests emerging – take advantage of them! (what parent – or adult – doesn’t turn to a teenager to fix their technology these days? Same idea.)

I know, “there’s never enough time” or “we’re all so busy”.  I’m not going to get all preachy and finger-wagging – but how many times have you wished your parents had had different conversations about (fill in the blank) with you?


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