How to talk to your family about money

Marianne Curphey 

Talking about money is still Britain’s last taboo. A recent survey of 15,000 by researchers from University College London found that people would much rather discuss their love life with a stranger than reveal their income.

Differing mindsets about money

It can be particularly hard to open up a conversation if you and your partner or family member have a very different attitude to money.

Your own attitude to money will have been formed when you were a child, and will have been influenced by what you learnt from your parents and environment as you grew up. Your partner will have had a different experience—and it is unlikely that your views will be completely aligned.

Your children and/or grandchildren will have grown up in a different financial environment—job insecurity, widely available credit and very low interest rates—all of which make it more difficult to save.

So when starting up a dialogue about money it is important to recognise that you might have a different money mindset from your loved ones.

Read more: What's the difference between good debt and bad debt?



Pick the right moment

Rather than waiting until you feel upset about something, try to schedule in a meeting with your partner or family at a regular time each month to review the family finances.

Don’t leave it until crisis point—make an arrangement to talk about money regularly.

You could broach the subject by saying: “I would really like to set aside some time each month to talk about our money plans and dreams for the future.”



Set an agenda

Ask everyone involved to say what they would like to be included in the agenda. Include financial goals.

To start with, you might want to talk about how much to spend on a future holiday, or how to save up for a car that is going to need replacing in the future.  

This might lead on to how to share bills, or cut household costs.

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Focus on goals not blame

You can discuss spending plans and goals, and work out whether you need to cut back on anything in order to achieve this. By focussing on shared goals, the meeting is less likely to become confrontational.

If you have children living with you, it may be a good time to talk about how they can contribute to the household budget. Or if you want your adult children to be involved in more complicated discussions—for example if you need to talk to them about wills or estate planning—then try to pick a place and time which is convenient for everyone – perhaps at a weekend.



Don’t judge

It’s important not to impose your ideas too forcefully on other people. Try to listen and be understanding. People are much more likely to be honest about debt or other financial struggles they are having if they know they are not going to be made to feel stupid.

You could suggest they talk to a debt counselling service like Stepchange or National Debtline if they feel their debt is getting out of control or they are worried about it.

Read more: How to talk about anger



Show not tell

If you understand how finance works, don’t try to intimidate your partner or family. Acknowledge that there are different ways of achieving the same goal.

Explain what you do and how you save and invest. Offer help without telling them what to do.



Plan ahead

By having a regular meeting you can start to think about the medium and long term, rather than just sorting out bills and payments for the next couple of months.

For example, there are a number of tax-planning steps you can take to reduce your tax bill and protect family money. These include:

  • Opening tax-free savings accounts such as Individual Savings Accounts (ISAs) in your name and that of your spouse
  • Setting up Junior ISAs for children or grandchildren
  • Married couples can transfer a proportion of their personal allowance (the amount you can earn tax-free each year) between them.
  • You or your parents might also need to consider Inheritance Tax Planning – writing a bill, making financial gifts and thinking about how to reduce your IHT liability. These are important parts of financial planning that involve the whole family.
  • If you are unsure about investment or tax, then an independent financial adviser or certified financial planner can help you review finances and set future savings goals.

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