5 Tips for Having Effective Family Money Meetings

5 Tips for Having Effective Family Money Meetings

March 27, 2024

Many parents are reluctant to discuss money with their children, for whatever reason. In fact, a 2023 study found that 62 percent of Americans don't talk about money, in general. Yet talking with your children about money, and allowing them to hear you and your spouse discussing it, improves their financial literacy, which typically translates into better career and life outcomes later.

Beyond just talking about money, giving children hands-on experience with managing money is even more empowering, and effective. Some experts say that, however you decide to teach your children about money, it’s important to be consistent, to focus on actions and to have continuous conversations.

One way to make money discussions a priority is to conduct regular family money meetings.

Family money conversations typically run the gamut from long-term financial planning to charitable giving to creating a family legacy. When children are old enough, these conversations also can cover how your and your spouse’s assets will be divided upon your death.

It might seem like an uncomfortable conversation at first, but adding transparency and openness to your money situation will make life transitions easier for your children later on. This transparency also can help you preserve your family’s wealth. Research shows that heirs who are not prepared for a transition of wealth, coupled with a poor communication and trust, are two major causes of families failing to maintain wealth across generations.

Often, family meetings are informal meetings with immediate family members that last one or two hours. In some cases, family meetings last two or three days and involve several generations, with a financial manager facilitating the meetings.

Here are five tips for holding effective family money meetings.

1. Determine what your family money values are

Roy Disney of the Walt Disney Co. said, “When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.” This is true for individuals, organization leaders and families.

Before you discuss any specific financial topics, first decide what your family money values are. It is important for everyone, including your children, to be involved in this discussion. Once you have listed a few values that everyone agrees are appropriate to guide the family’s decisions into the future, then it will be easier to make decisions about money when conflicting priorities are involved.

If two family members disagree on how to approach a major purchase, for example, you can remind everyone of the family values everyone agreed on. Then ask, “Which purchase is better aligned with our values?”

2. Discuss specific topics in-depth

The focus of each meeting will vary according to what’s happening in your family at any given time.

For example, you might hold a family meeting to discuss how to manage a lump sum of money your family has received from the estate of a deceased relative. You and your spouse can discuss the importance of saving some of the money, investing some, donating some to a good cause and spending a little. Allowing your children to join the discussion will let them know their opinions matter. Also, it will help them understand your priorities and see how you make decisions about money.

Another family meeting might focus on planning a family vacation. Your kids can weigh in on places they would like to visit. Also, it will be educational for them to hear how the adults discuss the various costs associated with the trip and your plans for saving money to put toward the vacation, well in advance. This discussion will teach your children how to plan ahead and how to compare costs.

3. Review the family budget each month

People who follow a budget typically do a better job of managing their money than those who don’t because on a budget, you track your spending. Following a budget makes you more aware of where your money is going.

And when you have monthly budget meetings with your family, it gives you all an opportunity to “tell your money where to go” instead of figuring out where it went a couple of months later. These meetings will help get all family members on the same page, and they will help you and your spouse divide up the responsibility of reigning in expenses that are unnecessary. These discussions will help your children distinguish between needs and wants, which will be a critical life lesson they will need later in life.

4. Decide which causes to support

Discussions about which causes your family will support are closely tied to the values you decide on as a family.

When your children are old enough to understand philanthropy, start having family meetings to discuss which charities to donate to — which ones align with your family values. Depending on the amount of wealth involved, it can be helpful to have your financial advisor facilitate this discussion, whether you want to discuss establishing a foundation, setting up a donor-advised fund or just making regular donations to a couple of charities.

Getting your children involved in these discussions can get them excited about giving back to others, and it can establish a habit of giving in their adult years. In these meetings, your children are likely to learn a lot about asset allocation, the power of compound interest over time and effective decision making given a limited budget.

5. Resolve conflicts as early as possible

Finances are the root of many family conflicts. Unfortunately, if these conflicts are never addressed properly, they can go unresolved and cause irreparable damage to relationships.

In your family money meetings, encourage everyone to voice their concerns and differing opinions. Family dynamics are complicated, and everyone has different priorities, motivations and interests. No family is going to be in 100 percent agreement on every issue all the time. It is critical to discuss these differences and to give everyone a chance to be heard.

Often, families in conflict have neutral third parties facilitate their discussions to ensure that everyone comes away from the table with some wins and also that everyone compromises a little. Teaching your children how to navigate such conflicts early in life will be one of the most valuable gifts you can give them. It will benefit them in their personal relationships, in their careers and with their own families, once they become adults.

Even if some of your family members are not speaking to one another, you can still try to turn things around. One option is to bring the family together for a conflict-resolution meeting before having a discussion about finances.

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Family money meetings are highly effective at building emotional bonds among your family members, increasing financial literacy, fostering transparency, building a family legacy everyone can be proud of and approaching differences of opinion with mutual respect.

If your family has never had a money meeting, schedule one today. Please let us know how it goes. We're here to help, whether you need a facilitator or just guidance on which topics to discuss.


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