Family Financial Planning is No Picnic. Or is it?
The average family is financially dysfunctional. One spouse handles all the financial matters and the grown children have no idea of what mom or dad has planned. Disagree? Then answer this: who can seamlessly step in to pay your bills and manage your portfolio? Is someone in the wings to manage things for your parents when (not if) they can’t manage things on their own? If both answers
are yes, read no further. If even one answer is a no, then there’s work to do.
Taking a dip: Aside from special holidays, summer is the season for getting multiple generations together. Be it at the cottage or around the grill, take advantage of this time. There is never a “good” time to talk family finances, which means those conversations are guaranteed to happen at a bad time, such as a severe illness or death. So, while the grandkids are building sand castles, gather the adults to dip a toe in the water and share some plans.
Panic or Picnic: What if after 45 years of marriage mom suddenly takes ill. The neighbors might keep dad well fed, but if mom paid the bills, dad might not even know where the checkbook is. Or imagine what might happen to dad’s carefully constructed investment portfolio if he took ill. Mom always let dad handle those things, and she’s never take the time to understand what makes that portfolio work so well. Ask by example: Financial conversations can be difficult.. So, begin by sharing your own plans. “Mom, I wanted to let you know Jane and I just had a great talk. We realized that since I pay the bills and she does the investing, it would be tough it we suddenly switched roles. So, I shared my bill system and she introduced me to her financial advisor. What’s the plan if you or Dad gets sick?”
A simple list: Worried about appearing as the money-grubbing kid? Explain it’s not about the money. Bills can continue being paid by sharing a simple list of what gets paid, when and from which account. Investment gaps can be avoided by listing accounts and advisors. And, by creating a written Investment Policy Statement for each of those accounts, it becomes easy for anyone to understand the master plan for those stocks, bonds and mutual funds. At some point, everyone needs help with their finances. Everyone. Conversations about family finances don’t need to focus on dollars and cents. They need only to focus on plans and processes. It’s a conversation you need to have BEFORE you need to have it. So grab a beer and a brat (or some ice-tea and a veggie burger) and have a summer sit-down in the sun.