In the midst of a global pandemic, it is more important than ever to talk to loved ones about money — but that doesn’t mean it's any easier. Money is a taboo subject for a lot of people, but not discussing your finances can cost you. According to a survey from CreditCards.com, over half of millennials have committed some kind of financial infidelity against their current partner, compared to 40 percent of the population at any age. Talking about money is not limited to our romantic relationships — it can impact our parents and our kids as well. Here’s how to do talk about it the right way.
1. Set aside a time to talk, and let your loved one know in advance.
The big money talk is not one you want to have during a Netflix binge or over a weeknight dinner without proper warning. Give your partner, parent or whomever you need to talk with a heads up so they can reflect as well.
“You don't want to blindside somebody with a conversation about finance, because it's probably going to make them defensive right off the bat,” said Erin Lowry, author of "Broke Millennial Talks Money". “You want this to be a collaborative conversation. You don't want it to feel at all like an attack.”
2. Get on the same page with your partner.
When it comes to discussing money with your romantic partner or spouse, consider more than just crunching the numbers. Money is wrapped up in our feelings, and overlooking that can leave out critical information.
“Having a conversation about the emotions around money is a very powerful foundation to also be setting for yourself in the future, because no matter how good you both are at money, you will get into fights,” Lowry explained. “Even if the big stuff tends to be aligned, there will be moments when your values disconnect and that's OK. You're not the same person.”
Being open about your money can mean more than just streamlining your checking accounts — it can help ease financial anxiety as well, according to NBC News senior business correspondent Stephanie Ruhle. “You've got to talk to your partner. You get on the same page and once that happens, there's a lot more upside than there is downside,” Ruhle said. “It's about setting expectations.”
3. Talk to your adult kids before a financial issue comes up.
With millions of Americans still unemployed or underemployed, adult children may be moving back into their parents' homes out of financial necessity, and it could be causing problems for once-empty nesters.
Lowry recommends talking to your new roommate before you’re under financial strain, especially if you're on a fixed income. Lowry also encourages asking your kids to contribute to the household, whether financially or in other ways, to help offset costs. “If electricity use and water use and everything else has gone up because they're in your home, prorate the bill, have them chip in,” she said. “If financially they can't contribute, they should be contributing in some other way, whether that is handling the grocery shopping and cooking most of the meals or handling logistics of something else.”
4. Try to plan for your parents’ retirement and elder care as early as you can.
Talking with your older relatives about money can be really difficult, especially if they're not used to you taking care of them. Lowry advises asking for advice to get the ball rolling. “You can use your own life moments to ask questions of your parents. You know, ‘I just started a new job and I have access to my retirement plan and I'm feeling kind of stressed out trying to figure out how to set it up, how did you guys handle this?’ And see what they say,” she explained.
Taking about things beyond just money is vital, according to Ruhle. “Before things get stressed, do some estate planning, talk to your parents about what their plans would be, what they'd like to do. Really figure out everyone's money situation before suddenly the bills are piling up, and you don't know who's going to pay for it,” she said.
Try to handle the situation with grace and patience. Some parents may be very stubborn and avoid talking about money, or you may plan to take care of them no matter what. “For some people this is cultural and not even a question and obviously you're going to take care of your parents,” Lowry said. “At the end of the day they are adults, they get to make their own decisions.”