In part seven of the “M Word” blog series, Lori Sackler shares why holidays can be a good time to launch financial talks.
At the holidays, families carve out time to be with each other and spend quality time away from the daily stresses and commitments of their lives. This is also an opportunity to bridge the distance and time away from loved ones due to geography, living in different parts of the country or world or simply being distracted because of stressful work or travel schedules.
Being away from your daily routine can provide an opportunity to reflect on your life and think about open items in your financial plan or the family dynamics about money that are troubling. It might even be an opportunity to prepare for and have money talks that you have been delaying because you find it too difficult to broach the conversation.
The holidays are fast approaching, which means you have another crack at resolving issues and conflict at the next family gathering and making progress towards achieving certain goals.
In the “M Word” blog of May 30, we highlighted the “inner landscape” elements, both conscious and unconscious that may be interfering with you getting to the starting line and launching into money conversations as you navigate different family transitions. In this blog, we will actually tackle how to prepare for the talks and think them through in advance so when you have the next family gathering, you can be prepared to articulate the issues, get agreement on the need to resolve and schedule a time to discuss the pressing matters that may later create a family meltdown in the event they’re not tackled.
I have compared having the money talk to staging a Shakespearean play. The actual play is filled with drama and conflict on the surface as the specific situations and circumstances (i.e. life transitions such as retirement, long term care of loved ones, estate transfers, etc.) unfold, and the conscious as well as covert factors play out (as identified in the previous blog “preparing the inner landscape”). The subtexts can make the conversations epic, filling everyone with fear and anxiety, and oftentimes not providing positive results.
That is exactly why this step is so important; “Preparation Pays”. Producing a staged event of any kind, particularly one that can be emotionally charged, often takes months of preparation and planning. While many of you might think this is overkill to make such an analogy, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of planning and preparation to encourage and fuel an open discussion and ultimately be successful.
I also liken having the money talk to other crucial conversations you have during your lifetime, like that big life-changing job interview you are preparing for or a business or legal matter you need to resolve. In all those situations you want to ask the following questions that impact the outcome: the what, who, when, where, why and how? What are the issues we need to address or the particular, pressing money event that needs to be tackled, who are the best individuals and/or professionals to include and possibly lead the conversation, when is the most appropriate time to schedule the discussion, where or at what location should we plan to meet which will offer a supportive environment , why is it so important to have this discussion, what is at stake in money and family relationships and how do I best present my case and engage others in good behavior and sound decisions?
When it comes to millennials, the first question around transition points and issues to discuss may be related to paying down their debt, thinking about renting vs. owning and funding a purchase, helping their boomer parents who may be starting to have health issues or dealing with estate planning issues that will impact the family.
One of the reasons planning is so critical is that it is more difficult than ever in today’s plugged in world, to craft a face-to-face conversation. The advent of connective technology such as email, texting, tweeting, Facebook, et all, has led our conversation skills to atrophy. We are substituting technology-driven conversations for human connections. Having a conversation about money is more about art than technology and requires patience, skill and preparation.
The M Word: The Money Talk can provide you with more details, context and stories on the preparation of the conversation. I invite you to take a look when you are ready to get serious about planning and talking with the people who will be impacted.
In the next blog, we’ll address the professionals and third-party individuals who you might want to engage in assisting you with the talks.
About the author: Lori R Sackler is a Financial Advisor, Family Wealth Director and Senior Vice President, at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management and author of the M Word: The Money Talk Every Family Needs to Have About Wealth and Their Financial Future (McGraw-Hill Education, undated 2016) and The M Word Journal: How to Have the Money Talk (2016).