Money is one of the biggest sources of stress for many of us, but studies show that we are happier to discuss cultural taboos such as mental health and infertility than to air our bank balances.¹ But not talking about money as a family can be a real issue – especially at certain life stages such as when older family members need to go into care, or children go off to university.
“A lot of people haven’t ever had a discussion about money, so it is hard to know when and where to start,” says Tsitsi Mutiti, an investment manager at Charles Stanley. “But the sooner you talk about it and the more open you are the better, in most cases.”
Here are a few tips from the experts to get your conversation started.
It’s good to talk
Our financial goals change throughout our lives, and each generation has different goals and different saving strategies. But if families are open about their finances, they can start to plan together and help to ease each other’s financial burdens, says Simon Davis, director of financial planning at Charles Stanley. He warns that it can be a real problem if families have never talked about money when circumstances change, especially if elderly parents become incapacitated. “There are real dangers when it comes to keeping financial issues to oneself,” says Davis. “It can leave people with an absolute administrative nightmare to unravel and create a real headache.”
Davis says that starting to have open conversations with younger children can be helpful. “It’s great to give family members a grip on money, as lack of financial education is a real problem in society,” he says. “Talking about understanding money and how it works can start as early as possible.”
Smoothing tricky conversations
But even if you haven’t started early, Mutiti says there are ways to make these difficult conversations easier – including involving a third party such as a trusted financial adviser or wealth manager. “It depends on family dynamics,” she says. “Often there are a whole host of family issues, personalities and competing dynamics to consider. But although it depends on the situation, [involving a third party] is often a perfect way of introducing the topics in a neutral setting.”
Davis agrees, saying: “I often encourage adult sons or daughters to attend meetings and use the adviser to get a handle on a situation if needed.”
He says that families can prepare for a chat like this in different ways. “If you are a very businesslike family you could set up an agenda in advance, but for some families that could feel restrictive. It will depend. I would usually start a meeting with summation of overall position – wishes of patriarchs and matriarchs, causes and charities, so this might be a good thing to think about in advance.”
Dealing with discomfort
However and whenever you choose to talk about money, it is important to acknowledge that some of you may feel uncomfortable. “There is a wee bit of a British thing there,” Davis says, adding that it can be particularly tricky when a potential inheritance is involved. “Parents feel wary of whether children will get greedy, or children don’t want to seem greedy.”
Making a start may be hard, but it will set your family up for greater financial success in the future. A survey by Charles Stanley found that taboos around the subject could leave your family with an entirely avoidable tax bill of up to £80,000.²
“Meeting a professional adviser can help you instigate this process – and offer valuable advice,” Davis says.
It’s time to talk about money
For more details call Charles Stanley on 020 4502 7397 or visit charles-stanley.co.uk to find information on how an adviser can help you to talk about money.
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