During the fall holiday season, many families get together to enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas. Often, two subjects to avoid are politics and religion, areas where people have very strong feelings.
It’s surprising, then, that a study by Wells Fargo discovered that the subject most difficult to talk about is personal finance. It rated 44% difficulty, while politics scored 35% and religion was 32%.
Not surprisingly, the study shows that 71% of adults learned the importance of saving from their parents. Yet, barely more than one-third of today’s parents report discussing money savings frequently with their children.
Being on the same page as your spouse on money matters is very important. We know that financial issues are among the biggest reasons for divorce. If debt and savings are areas of conflict, it is important to try to resolve this before the busy holiday shopping season.
Sometimes, families decide that instead of buying something for older family members, have a Secret Santa drawing in which you buy only for the name you pulled out of a hat. Setting a gift cost maximum is an option, so family members do not overspend their budgets.
College debt is a major challenge for many people today. It is causing millennials to delay marriage and buying a house. Many of these people will not receive a pension when they retire. All of these challenges will make their lives more difficult.
Encourage these family members to save in their 401(k). Encourage them to at least contribute enough to get the whole employer match. It is hard to turn down free money. Sometimes, I hear of parents gifting money to their children to fund a Roth. This way, they get to have some retirement money growing without hurting a child’s cash flow.
If your children have excessive credit card debt, explain how much they will have to pay if they are making only minimum payments. Maybe you can help them develop a budget to better understand their spending.
It is important for boomers to be able to discuss financial issues with their parents. Often, the parents may become confused as they age. If you observe that your parents are forgetting things such as taking medicine, you may want to reach out. Maybe they need help tracking bills that may be due. Sometimes, they pay the same invoice more than once.
Older Americans are often the target of identity theft. Make sure your parents understand some of the most popular scams, such as pretending to be the Internal Revenue Service and saying they will send the police if you do not immediately send money.
The IRS will not just call; it will send a series of letters by the U.S. Post Service. They do not use e-mail or send the police. Make sure no one gives their Social Security numbers to anyone who calls.
It is important to be sensitive when you bring up financial issues with a family member. Do it in a private setting. If you need excuses, blame it in your financial planner. You can say I was discussing these subjects with my planner and they thought it was import to go over with family members.
This talk may be the best gift you can give.
Gary Boatman is a Monessen-based certified financial planner and the author of “Your Financial Compass: Safe passage through the turbulent waters of taxes, income planning and market volatility.”
To submit columns on financial planning or investing, email Rick Shrum at firstname.lastname@example.org.