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Family Harmony and Money

Published by: Jeff Hall, CFP® Date: September 09, 2012

Family, health, and money; the three things we want taken care of more than anything else. The first time I heard this, it didn’t resonate with me. I was in my mid 20’s, single, and broke. These days, I’m a husband, a father and have poured almost 15 years of my life into a single career. These three things mean much more to me after seeing my lovely bride at the altar and looking into my newborn son’s eyes the day he was born.

We find it easy to “do things” to show the importance of family, health, and money. We schedule family time first, we work hard at our jobs to gain success, we stick to a daily exercise regimen to improve fitness and we implement a plan to be a good steward of our resources- all very noble and necessary. However, we find it harder to “say things” about why they are important, especially money. Few topics destroy family harmony more than the inability to discuss money. It doesn’t have to be this way. We all have a story to tell and more than likely, the people we care about most will care the most about how we relate to money. So, is it a matter of budgets and balance sheets or a matter of communication?

When it comes to family dynamics, most of us just have communication issues and the bottom line is we’re afraid. We’re afraid of upsetting someone, not treating someone fairly, or being resented. We’re afraid of losing control because we’re the ones who know the “condition of our flocks” and we don’t want anyone else involved.

Not addressing these thoughts will almost certainly inhibit family harmony. However, if we adopt the following mindset, maybe we can salvage unity along the way:

1) Identify our passions and concerns, as well as our victories and losses. Most likely, they’re related in some way and are the working components of who we are and how we react to financial matters.
2) Communicate them to our families. Open communication for some doesn’t occur until the two spouses find themselves in the estate planning attorney’s office discussing who gets what when. Worse yet, the first and last communication for some is the reading of the will. Not good.
3) Follow through. My high school coach readily confesses he knows nothing about kicking footballs, but ironically his best advice to me is still the best advice I give to young kickers…keep your head down and follow through; meaning, stay focused and finish. When it comes to keeping the peace, don’t let the uncomfortable feeling of openness and, in some cases, confrontation distract you from continuing what you start.

Every family has money problems; the problems just differ from one household to the next. Whether you’re growing, preserving, using, or giving away your wealth, don’t neglect the effort to maintain family unity by sharing your story.

Jeff Hall, CFP® is a partner and Senior Financial Advisor with Rather & Kittrell. He is available at jhall@rkcapital.com