Perhaps because it’s after tax season, I’m in many conversations about money and finances, professionally and personally. The two biggest topics? Talking with your spouse and talking with your aging parents.
How would you begin a conversation with your spouse about spending, saving and financial goals? And especially if you already sense you’re not quite on the same page?
How would you talk with your parents, who are dealing with retirement or aging issues, and money issues far more complex than when they younger?
These are the questions I’m answering, along with some favorite, useful resources if you want to read more before taking a first step.
“Taking personal responsibility for this is freeing, empowering and makes you stronger.”
[a client’s quote]
Money Talk with Your Spouse
Sherry knew she had to take the lead or it wasn’t going to happen. They were not on the same page, but where to begin? At the end of it all, after she took that first brave step to get them started, they have goals and systems they are both happy with. The goals have made it easier to make decisions together – as a touchstone, without as much emotion as before. “In an odd way, it’s brought us closer together.” The weekly meeting and having an outside expert were key to opening lines of communication.
Here is a framework to begin your own conversation.
Where to start: How close or far apart are your values around financials, both short term and long term?
Where are you headed? What goals have you created together for how you will spend the next year? The next decade? Retirement/post major career roles?
Where do you stand financially now and where would you like to get to, whether by the numbers or lifestyle?
Whether retirement is 20 years away or 5, what does the “retirement” phase look like to each of you, vis à vis work, self-employment, leisure and volunteer time?
The flow: What’s the flow of money in; what’s the schedule? If one of you is self-employed, what does a typical month look like? Do you have enough traction to have a predictable, minimum level of income to bring to the household expenses and savings? Does your spouse understand this rhythm of the income and outgo for your business or is that kept separate?
What is your spouse’s usual way of hearing your message: does it need to be analytical, emotional? Discussed in small bite sized conversations, while away on vacation? Does involving a professional have more weight in his or her mind? More tips in this PsychCentral article and this Money magazine article.
Money Talk with Your Parents
Linda knew it was time for “the conversation,” but her parents had always been fairly private about finances and she didn’t want to pry. But she wanted to be sure that her parents were set for their next phase of life and not stressed unnecessarily. She knew she could be helpful but didn’t know how to start.
Here are some of the questions she addressed to get started which are a framework to begin with for you as well.
Confidentiality and familial norms: What’s the history of discussing financials – open, private? Start small, respecting privacy, but definitely starting. Our financial environment is much more complex today than in years past. What level of education have your parents had over the arc of their lifetime?
Family dynamics and expertise of individual siblings: Who in the family could be the person to support or manage the details; what is your parent’s preference and what do they need? How much do others need to know, based on your parents’ preferences?
Is one parent more financially interested than the other? Is one more concerned about the future, more interested in leaving something to the children, etc.?
Will they need financial support from their children? Which professionals do you have in your circle who could partner with you and your parents to figure it out? Or does one of your siblings have expertise …. remembering that this is still an emotionally-involved sibling, so be careful here with expectations.
And in some cases, you may need to do the research yourself first, so that when your parents become ready for the conversation, you are well versed to have answers on the spot.
Extra compassion: For parents, this whole conversation is also tied in with the psychology and emotions around this stage of life. It’s a time when driving may need to stop, one may have physical or mental health issues, fear of running out of money (very common, even when there is “plenty”), thinking about one’s legacy, about what we leave to our children, and so forth. It is far bigger than “just about money.”
P.S. If you’ve had a difficult time figuring out how to have these discussions, you’re not alone.
Think about what plays into this topic: knowledge, emotions, family history, privacy, math abilities, juggling/organizing/prioritizing abilities, your family’s financial history, psychology (coming from a place of fear or abundance?).
If you need to organize your thoughts or need support around how to proceed, please email or call to discuss how that would look for you.
Sue@OrganizeNH.com or 603.554.1948