The Best Ways To Approach Difficult Money Conversations

It’s something you have to do

Some 44% of Americans say money is tougher to talk about than politics, religion, even death according to a survey from Wells Fargo. And when the money conversation is a tough one — debt that went undetected, a spending issue, and the like — it’s tougher still. But there are ways to broach the topic that can help reassure everyone in the room, and even lift the money-talking taboo.

Prepare, Just Don’t Preach

Before you ever broach the topic, think about all the possible details of the conversation, including the main talking points you’d like to address, even the location where you’d like to have your chat (ideally a neutral place, where all parties feel comfortable.) Jot down some of your talking points so you can practice addressing them.

But while you want to prepare, you don’t want to preach. No one likes to feel like they’re being lectured, says financial therapist Dr. Mariah Hudler. When you hit your listener with a rapid fire of lots of hard facts and criticism, it’s easier to turn them off. The solution is to bring your own feelings and emotions into the mix. When you allude to your feelings, your loved one will be more likely to respond with empathy and understanding, Hudler says.

Assume the Best

You may not understand some of the (possibly unfortunate) financial decisions your loved one has made, but these decisions likely made sense to them at the time, explains Dr. Daniel Crosby, Chief Behavioral Officer at Brinker Capital. “Assume good intentions on their part, and seek understanding, not blame,” he suggests. One of the best ways to do this is to modify your speech to include more of the word “I” and less of the word “you.” For example, say, “I feel like we’ve been spending a lot of money lately,” as opposed to, “Your current spending habits don’t seem sustainable.” Making the conversation more about how you feel as opposed to what they’ve done wrong or what they need to do can make it easier for them to understand your point of view.

Stick to Observed Behaviors, and Don’t Forget Your Goal

Even if you think you know your loved one better than they know themselves, don’t play mind-reader, and assume anything about their intentions. Your conversations will be much more productive if you can stick to discussing things that have already happened. For example, there’s no need to speculate about the bad decisions they might make in the future when you have real-world examples of negative experiences that have already occurred. Remember that your goal is to arrive at a helpful solution, not to be “right” at the expense of the other person. “Realize that winning is about moving forward together,” Crosby says,

Be Rational and Understanding

Once you’ve said what you have to say, it’s just as important that you become a good and devoted listener, Hudley says. No matter how your loved one responds to what you had to say, you must allow them the opportunity to express their views and not cut them off, even if they’re expressing a negative opinion or challenging what you said. Once everyone has said what they want to say, recap the meeting, review next steps and so that you can ensure both of you are on the same page, and do something you both enjoy — like drinking a toast to what comes next.

With Megi Meskhi

Jean Chatzky

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