My webinar series « Conversations about money » has just begun. With everything that is happening in this crazy covid-world, money has become a major concern for people. Unfortunately, we do not like to talk about money, even in good times.
Trying to gain just a little bit of control over our lives in these exceptional times means we have to name what is eating away inside of us; find a way to talk about it, so that we can start finding a solution.
One tool that can definitely make the conversation easier is RAIN. RAIN is an acronym in the mindfulness world that helps people with their anxiety issues and gain a better sense of control.
You can check in with your emotions and your listening skills, using the acronym RAIN (developed from consciousness training) to help overcome the anxiety around talking about money and make the conversation easier.
During this pandemic, emotions are raw; we must be particularly sensitive to how people are feeling. Here’s how you can apply the RAIN technique:
R – Recognize what is happening; – be present for the discussion and allow space for what is to come.
A – Allow the experience to be there, just as it is – when talking about money don’t be fixated on the outcome of the conversation. Go into it with an open mind and an open heart.
I – Investigate – listen with interest and care- people won’t honestly share unless they feel you are honestly interested. When you are listening 50% of your attention should be on the person who is talking and the other 50% should be focused on the quality of your listening.
N – Nurture with self-compassion. Be mindful that some conversations may be fraught with painful emotions.
Talking about money should be a regular practice within families and I provide the following outline in my book; The Black Belt Investor.
“Since discussions about money are moments ripe for conflict, I suggest dedicating a specific time during the week, or month, to discuss such issues. Family supper, a sacred time, is not the right time to address prickly issues. You don’t want your teenagers to stop showing up for meals.
Instead, call a family council and let the participants know the agenda ahead of time so they don’t feel ambushed and have time beforehand to gather their thoughts. Warned ahead, the participants are prepared mentally to talk about money and this will allow the conversation to proceed calmly and thoughtfully. Your aim in leading the meeting is transparency, to convey to the rest of the family in an open manner what you can afford and what you can’t and what decisions you will need to make as a unit. The range of topics can include anything from the food you buy and your investments to estate planning and powers of attorney. (I have clients who will lose a parent and it will take days of rifling through drawers and papers to learn of the deceased’s wishes, but we’ll talk about that in the next chapter.) I know from having teenagers that they will come to a family council on money as long as you tell them it’s important and specify the time, place, and how long you anticipate it will last. Emotions may run high, and it’s important that the conversation ends at the meeting’s conclusion. If there is more to discuss, then find another suitable time to sit down in a calm, collected manner.
Family councils are important, especially for the children’s long-term financial health. “What we know about money, we generally learn from our parents,’ says Wells Fargo’s (Karen) Wimbish (the bank’s director of retail retirement). ‘If you are a parent and you are not having money conversations with your kids, you are handicapping the next generation of savers and investors.’” This is why it’s crucial you devote time to discuss with your children the many financial decisions that directly impact them, like why a much talked about vacation is too expensive right now, or which prospective universities are affordable for the family. When your child gets his or her license, he or she should learn how much it costs to drive a car. Consider it an opportunity to teach the child about important financial issues like upkeep and insurance. When you flippantly tell a teenager in passing that you called the insurance company and added his or her name to the policy for a few extra dollars, he or she believes it’s a perfunctory matter that comes at barely any cost. Sit them down and explain costs in relation to the costs of other products and experiences so they begin to establish reference points.
Financial issues between husband and wife should remain private, discussed in a setting similar to family councils. You don’t want to bring it up after you’ve finished watching television, and then have your spouse say he is too tired and you’ll talk about it the next night. Tomorrow night he’ll just find another reason to push off the conversation. When engaging your spouse in a conversation about money, you should be trying to answer the question of what he knows about your attitude toward money and vice versa. As a couple you need to reach decisions, and sometimes compromises, about such issues as basic spending, powers of attorney, financial planning, insurance, and estate planning. Achieving effective communication with your spouse, and family, takes practice. You will face great resistance to articulating your concerns out loud, as we discussed, and it will take a degree of conditioning, which can only be accomplished through discipline and consistency.
A breakdown in family communication is guaranteed if you come into the family council as the father or mother ready to lay down the law, so you and your spouse should always enter as a unit, your issues already ironed out. The children should receive the information as a joint message from the parents. This is especially important for families of divorce. For obvious reasons, you wouldn’t want a situation where you tell your child one thing, and she answers that the other parent has told her differently. This is also an area where you need to be in control of your emotions. Don’t be tempted to spoil your child to spite your ex. Connect with your former spouse and agree on a consistent financial message to deliver to the children.
No question, it is a challenge. Remember, you are planting the seed for how your children will feel about money.
Clearly, the conversation you have with your five-year-old daughter will be different from the one you have with your fifteen-year-old son, but it’s never too soon to impart to young children the value of money, lessons about waste, and respect for their toys and belongings. Also, there is no reason children, of all ages, should not have financial plans of their own design. They, too, have hopes and desires. At ten years old, I had my first job delivering newspapers. Growing up in a single-mother household, we were not poor or wealthy, yet all of my plans had a dollar amount assigned to them because it was clear I would need to make them happen on my own. I learned great lessons by having access to a source of income and having complete control over how the funds would be spent. It helped that my mother was never involved. Not once did she chastise me for silly purchases. It was empowering, even if I ended up squandering much of it. Before long your small children will become teenagers who are thinking of college and career plans. They should have the tools to understand how such choices will impact their future lifestyles.”
Talking about our finances is often the first step in building a healthy relationship with money. It can be especially difficult during a time of crisis, so being mindful of R.A.I.N. will help. Don’t wait until the pandemic is over to start the conversation and keep it going, through good times and bad.