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Family money conversations: Sharing is caring!

By Beth Henary Watson

When I was growing up, my Mom carried a checkbook everywhere. It was how you used to pay for everything. She entered each transaction into the ledger when it happened, then adjusted the account total.

I recall being intrigued by the entries in Mom’s checkbook, having a strong sense that it reflected important information but not quite sure how to ask.

Much to their credit, Mom and Dad never shamed us about being expensive, and tried to provide as best they could. But I don’t recall much wisdom being imparted--even if to share hard-learned lessons. Mostly we didn’t discuss money, though I knew there wasn’t an abundance. One of my sisters also shares the wish that there had been “more awareness around finances generally.”

In short, I wish we’d had more money conversations: about the way our family did things compared to how other families operated, about mistakes my parents had made, about accomplishments like debt payoff. This might have accelerated my financial education as a young adult, even though most of us make some dumb choices anyway.

My kids will tell you that “sharing is caring,” so with that spirit in mind I asked some friends to share with you what they wish they’d learned about finances from their elders. Hopefully this inspires you to address money matters more directly with your family! 

“I wish my parents had told me money is finite and debt is bad!” lamented one middle-aged friend who spent early adulthood digging out of credit card and student loan debt.

A couple of friends regretted that their parents never talked to them about budgeting. 

“Don’t just pay bills….BUDGET,” one said she’d learned the hard way. “Money is a tool.”

The most surprising comment I received was from someone who wished her parents had turned down her request for a major purchase loan. “I wish they had said no. The disciplines of saving and planning would have been beneficial.”

Imperfect though we all are, I think most topics can be covered with grace and tact. (A neutral third party might help with highly charged issues like large inheritances or savings shortcomings.) Every attempt should be made to educate and communicate among family members, even if it’s bad news. Most of us would agree that knowledge is far better than silence. 


Beth Henary Watson is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ with Corner Post Financial Planning. 

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. 

Securities and Advisory services offered through LPL Financial, a registered investment advisor. Member FINRA/SIPC.