5 On Your Side

Financial stress? Use these tricks to avoid awkward family conversations

Posted June 19

Attitudes about money and spending habits often run deep.

Differing views within a family can trigger battles, but there are ways to keep the peace.

Whether you're a spender or a saver, simple conversations can keep financial worlds from colliding.

According to a recent Consumer Reports survey, 29 percent of respondents were uncomfortable telling their parents that it's time for someone to take over their finances.

About 40 percent of respondents were uncomfortable telling their teenagers or adult children that it's time to leave the nest.

The toughest conversation of all? Telling a spouse they aren't making enough money. About half of the survey respondents said they're uncomfortable having that conversation with their significant other.

Experts say focusing on one topic at a time is the first step to making money conversations less awkward.

"Too often, people try to tackle everything at once. So, start with identifying one element of the problem," Consumer Reports' Money Editor Tobie Stanger said. "You can work out the details of the resolution once everyone's on the same page."

For example, to talk with your kids about it being time to leave the house, start a conversation about their goals and plans to reach them.

With aging parents, use a story – such as a scam you heard about – to broach the conversation about them needing help with their finances. Then, offer to look over their financial documents together.

In some instances, however, difficult conversations may end with agreeing to disagree.

"When you reach an impasses, you may to have to say, 'OK, let's move on,'" Stanger said. "But to make real progress, you may want to bring in a professional."

A financial planner, CPA or a mediator can help keep conversations on track, and they can also help by assigning tasks and holding parties accountable.

Consumer Reports also suggests having tough talks in a neutral place, or even while taking a walk.

Studies show that when you're out and moving, people can process information better and come up with creative solutions.


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