We have blabbed on and on about the importance of families coming together to discuss long-term care planning for their parents. Another important topic for families that have not been addressed is talking about family money. This topic is definitely applicable to so many families and is often a deep source of resentment, bitterness, and rivalry.
While talking about money has long been taboo, not discussing what you have — particularly when you have a lot, or if your children think you do — is not going to make the problem go away. In most cases, advisers and psychologists say, it just makes things worse.
“The major problems happen when money is not talked about,” said Eric Dammann, a psychoanalyst in New York City. “They’ll set up this whole estate plan, but won’t talk to the kids about it. Then Mom and Dad die and there’s a reading of the will and it’s a surprise.”
Not only can it be a surprise but it can result in devastating effects on sibling relationships and continue long-term parental resentment. My mother always tells me that money is a tool; it should not be the master. When it is not discussed, it is not as if the children do not know it exists. They do and its importance grows and it does become a master. A hidden master. Discussing it is the grown-up thing to do and at the very least, discussion shines the light on this hidden issue and everyone knows where they stand. That is always the first step in dealing with any type of conflict – bringing it out. Seniors, unilaterally making the decisions is within your right, of course, but does not alleviate the tensions growing among those you love. You do not have to relinquish authority but you can include your family in a discussion about why you want to make the choices you are making with money. Perhaps you may even hear something that alters your “plan.” It is all about open-heartedness and the love of family.
Please realize that good mediation and/or facilitation will help you with strategies to approach this type of discussion. Further, a good mediator/facilitator can often really help resolve underlying family and emotional conflict regarding money that perhaps has been going on for a long time. Or, if the conflict cannot be resolved, mediation may open the doors of communication enough to find some middle ground where all parties can at least continue on in peace and respect and dignity knowing that they were there and heard and acknowledged when this plan was made. This is far better than force-feeding some “lesson” to a child about money that they will never learn because they are too steeped in resentment.