2 Strategies To Use With Family When Talking About Money

Speaking with family about money when caring for a loved one can be challenging.  There are already enough errands to run, groceries to shop for, doctor’s appointments to attend, and early departures from work to keep track of.

A financial conversation on top of all this is just too much. And yet, it’s sometimes required.  Insurance companies need to be called.  Bank accounts need to be funded.  Medical bills need to be paid.

To avoid these sticky financial conversations we use a common set of phrases and psychology.

“I don’t know how to deal with money” and “Money just stresses me out” are common.  Or my all-time favorite, “I don’t have the time.”

These are all techniques of avoidance.  Deep down we know differently.  We are smart and can figure most things out if we put our minds to it.

I want to encourage you to take action today.  I also want to enable you with tools to get past one of the largest speed bumps: speaking to family about money.

Particularly between family members of different generations, conversations about money can be challenging.

Below I outline two phrases that have worked extremely well for me.  I’ve walked out of several conversations feeling proud that I spoke with family about a thorny topic from a place of honesty and compassion.

I want you to feel the same way.


Top 2 Phrases

#1: “Can I Ask Your Advice?

We think telling people to do things works.  Usually we’re wrong.

Remember when your mother told you to do things when you were a kid?

  • “Jimmy, clean up your room.”
  • “Jimmy, brush your teeth.”
  • “Jimmy, stop being an idiot.”


The purpose behind asking for advice is to start the discussion about money (often the hardest part).  As Dale Carnegie says “When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.”  Start with connecting with your audience.

If they feel like they are helping you they will be much more willing to engage.  And before you know it, you’re both having a conversation about money.  This will open the door for the discussion to shift to your concerns about their finances.

Here are some specific phrases you can use to open the discussion.

“Mom, I am considering putting savings I have from last year’s bonus into my retirement.  However I’m concerned that I may not have enough funds set for unexpected expenses like car repairs or health expenses.  How did you and Dad think through these options in the past?”


“Dad, I’m trying to pay down some credit card debt that I have left over from college.  I’m not sure how much I should set aside each month or how I should think about interest charges.  Do you have any experience with this?  What do you think I should do?        

After they share some advice thank them (you may even learn something!).  Then ask them about their financial situation.  If there’s push back that’s fine.  Ask if you can chat again another time.  Pick a specific date.

This is a big step.  In a friendly manner you started a conversation with your loved one about money.  Many people wait months or years to get to this point.


#2: “I Would Like To Help You With X Expense.”

Beneath most money conversations is a desire to help.  You may want to help with the logistics of paying for bills, motivate your mother to buy more insurance, or simply give cash to help with the electric bill.

Be specific.  Think about all the people who came up to you and said, “If there is anything that I can do for your Mom please let me know.”

It’s a pain.  People leave it up to you to tell them how you should help.  People who just bring over a meal or pick up dry cleaning get it.  They know that just deciding to do something small helps a lot.

Think about a small way that you can help your loved one.  Keep in manageable. Avoid the broader conversation of family finances.  Stay targeted.

Below are some narratives you can use to get you started:

“Mom, Dan and I have some extra funds this year that we didn’t expect.  I’d love to help you out with some bills if you’re open to it.  We have about $1,000.  Would it be ok with you if we contributed to your phone bill with that money?”


“Dad, I got some extra money from my bonus this year and I’d love to help you out with some house expenses.  I bet your heating bill has gone up recently with the cold winter we’ve had.  How about I give you $500 in cash and you can use it towards paying the next few month’s bills.”    

If you don’t want to give money that’s fine.  Offer to help in another specific way.  Call the insurance company for them or join them for a doctor’s visit.  Maybe you can help them organize their bills.  Whatever it is, be specific.

You’ve started a healthy compassionate discussion about money.  Well done.

Published: June 18, 2015
By: JP Adams

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