Don’t Forget to Have This Critical Family Meeting
In many families, there comes a critical moment when a loved one steps in to help another family member with a financial issue. This help might be monetary, like a financial gift or loan, but it doesn’t have to be.
Help could take the form of securing death benefits for a newly widowed sister, or practical assistance in keeping a cousin’s household running during a severe illness. It could mean coordinating income distributions and paying bills for an elderly parent, or helping a child or grandchild navigate their first 401(k).
These situations often take us by surprise, and that’s normal. But you can help minimize their impact by having a crucial family meeting: the family-wide financial check-in.
Why it’s important
Now, for a lot of people, the idea of sitting down as an extended family and talking money seems out of the question. Money is emotional for many of us, and disagreement (or even disapproval) of how each family member handles their affairs is common.
But a family meeting doesn’t have to be a referendum on anyone’s decisions.
Instead, it can be a way to check in with everyone to see how things are going, establishing some contingency plans should anything go wrong, and even helping foster discussions about issues like retirement or college planning.
Taking the time to do this before you need to can help foster a sense of understanding, togetherness, and teamwork. This can be a truly worthy investment: if your sister “gets” your financial goals and way of doing things, she’ll probably have an easier time helping you out if you need it.
How to get started
For some families, this is a meeting that is more easily framed as an emergency planning session. If Susan gets sick, for example, who will step in? If Mom and Dad start struggling with the day-to-day, who can take responsibility?
Obviously, these aren’t the most pleasant discussions either. Few retirees want to think about incapacity, and pretty much no one wants to think about major illness.
Keeping the Whole Family on Track
Access Your Guide Below
That makes sense, but as with estate planning and insurance coverage, thinking through some of your major risks can help you manage them.
If possible, each family member could share:
- Some of their key financial goals
- A financial challenge they’re working through
- A potential risk they face, whether it’s job loss, a health scare, or something else
- Something they want to know more about when it comes to money and finance
It sounds structured, and it is. Talking about goals and challenges, not to mention the things we don’t know, can help to humanize this discussion across family members. Because no matter how financially savvy someone is, chances are they’re either worried or debating about something.
Start making plans
Sometimes, family members can help each other immediately and easily, with offers of practical assistance like bringing dinner one day a week or looking through those 401(k) enrollment forms.
In other cases, like planning for an emergency, it might take more discussion.
The process can look something like this:
- Identify the risk or challenge
- Talk about what might be needed to help avoid that risk and/or reduce the impact
- Talk about how someone could help and who might be best suited for the job
- What information is needed to help effectively. This could be a copy of an estate plan, for example, or instructions as to where to find a list of bank accounts.
For an elderly parent, for example, a key risk might be difficulty in managing day-to-day affairs.
The outcome might be that the parent needs additional support with bill payments, managing the mail, paying taxes, and working with their financial advisor. Their child or other family member might want to meet the advisor now, as well as learn about where their assets are held, how they pay their bills, and what key planning issues (like required minimum distributions from retirement accounts or sending tax returns) might need to be managed.
One family’s story
Frank and Samantha, who along with a few other family members are clients of ours, decided to implement this type of meeting with their 4 children, plus 3 spouses.
The key driver was Samantha’s breast cancer diagnosis, which spurred the couple’s desire to have some honest conversations with their kids and to help encourage mutual support throughout the family.
They were able to share some of their immediate fears and practical challenges. The result? Their daughter Alex began joining financial planning meetings for moral and practical support, while the other kids offered to take on various tasks as Frank focused his full attention on helping his wife.
But that initial meeting also had some other unexpected benefits.
The couple’s oldest son, Harvey, a successful attorney, didn’t appear to have any financial concerns. But he was very worried about controlling the process and costs of a major remodel. Harvey shared his concerns, and his youngest brother – an accountant for a construction firm – was able use his network to find a trustworthy and reliable contractor.
Frank and Samantha’s oldest daughter was worried about childcare as she and her busy husband worked to expand their business. As it happened, Harvey’s own daughter was looking for a summer job and adored their kids.
“I was amazed,” Samantha told us.
“I knew this was an important conversation for me and Frank, but I was really surprised by how much the kids came together to help each other, too. We don’t talk about these things normally, and giving everyone a chance to share inspired such a coming together and even a new respect for each other.”
Obviously, not every conversation will end with solutions – or even necessarily with agreement. That’s okay: sometimes, even opening the door to these discussions can have a lasting positive impact, or at least spur additional planning and thought by individual family members.
There’s more that you can do to plan for your family
Whether you decide to host a family meeting or not, you might still have goals and hopes for your family members.
Planning ahead can be the difference between realizing those dreams and letting them fall by the wayside. To get started, download our free guide to multi-generational financial planning. It’s packed with information about key financial planning challenges, the biggest risks you’ll likely face, and what you can do to help achieve your goals.
Download your complimentary copy of Keeping the Whole Family on Track today!
Keeping the Whole Family on Track
Access Your Guide Below