It’s that time of year — when families gather around the table to enjoy each other’s company and share what’s important in their lives. We talk about the latest news or how the local sports team is doing. We might ask what TV show everyone’s been watching or get updates on the grandkids’ activities. It’s a time of togetherness and joy. It is also an opportunity to strengthen your financial relationship with your children.

As we get older, we tend to conduct our financial planning in a bubble. We might work with an advisor, accountant, or attorney to develop a plan for transitioning our wealth when we pass away. We create different scenarios and transition plans. We think about the tax consequences and the risk of outliving our assets. We spend time debating how we would like this to look, what we hope the kids would do with an inheritance, and how we might support a charity that means so much to us. Then, we put our plan into a thick binder and place it somewhere safe. Sure, we might dust it off every five or 10 years just to make sure it’s what we still want, but we never communicate the plan to the people we love the most — the people this plan will impact the most.

Think about your situation. Do you have a good plan in place? And if so, have you communicated it to your trustees, powers of attorney(s), or beneficiaries? Have you had the “money” conversation with them yet?

Money can make some people act differently, so it is natural to hesitate to share this information. Maybe you and a sibling had a falling out when your parents passed away and this has made you nervous to talk about money with family. Maybe you feel your children will no longer see you for you, and will instead just see you as their inheritance. It can be scary and difficult to talk about these things, especially if your family never talks about money in the first place.

The holidays can be the perfect opportunity to start building this financial relationship with your family. Here are a few suggestions for your holiday dinner conversation.

  • Everyone loves a good story, so talk about the lessons your parents taught you about money. Did they ever have a conversation about an investment, real estate, or the stock market with you? What were some of the common themes you remember your parents telling you about money? One story I like to tell my children is about the great “layaway.” It’s always fun to see my kids’ eyes get big as they try to figure out why someone would pick something out at the store, hand the item to a cashier, and then have to make frequent trips back to the store to put cash toward that item before being able to bring it home. They really can’t imagine waiting that long to get something, or that you couldn’t take out a loan (consumer credit card debt) to get the item right away. As I share this story, I also let them know that I value working for things. I value not going into debt. I am able to teach them some of my money values.
  • One of the best activities for families during the holidays is donating time or money to a charity. One way to accomplish this is to give each member of the family a set dollar amount that they can donate. Then, when you gather as a family, each family member presents the charity or charities they selected. This activity is a great way to get a deeper understanding of what’s important to each individual. It also gives you the opportunity to share how you would like to leave a legacy after your death. It can help start the conversation about what your financial legacy might look like.
  • Let your family know that your legacy is important and you would like to have a fun family meeting to discuss what you have planned so far. You don’t need to share the details at your family gathering; rather, pick a day, have some fun and start sharing your legacy. Try planning a picnic at the beginning of summer. At the picnic, talk about why you invest the way you do. You don’t have to disclose dollar amounts. Instead, talk about your philosophy. You could also identify your trustee or executor, and let them know where to find your important documents and who to call if anything ever happens to you.

Take time this holiday season to enjoy your family. And take some small steps to determine, and begin communicating, your financial legacy.

Author Anne M. Mank Director of Financial Planning

Anne co-hosted the weekly radio show, Money Sense, and is a Certified Integrative Holistic Coach.

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