How to talk about money with your family

If your children have reached college and you haven’t talked with them about your family’s finances, it may be time to start. 

Tags: Estate planning, Goals, Planning
Published: August 13, 2019

There are a number of reasons why parents might avoid bringing up money with their high school or college-aged children. For many, speaking about what will happen to their finances after their death may be uncomfortable. Some don’t feel it’s appropriate to tell children about the family’s money in general. Parents may also find their children are uninterested in talking about money or planning.

However, engaging your young adult children in your family finances supports three things. One, it’s an effective way to teach your children about money management and financial independence. Two, they'll be better prepared to handle your finances in an emergency. And three, long-term planning as a family can help protect and grow the legacy you've worked hard to build.


Start the conversation

Open communication is a big part of setting up your family for future success. Begin with low-pressure conversations and communicate early and often so that family finances aren’t a mystery.

Here are some tips for getting started:

  • Start general. It’s not necessary to pull out spreadsheets and review accounts in detail. Provide some basic information about your assets and how you manage them. Understanding your financial decision-making can help your kids learn how to manage their own money.
  • Be open. Discuss difficulties you had to tackle while growing or managing your money, so your children aren’t surprised by any challenges attached to your finances.
  • Lead with goals. A good place to begin is talking about goals. Consider asking these goals-focused questions:   
    • What is your relationship with money? 
    • Who or what influences your financial decisions?
    • How do you make decisions about saving and spending money?
    • What should the balance be between money earned and money given?
    • What is your vision of the future for yourself in 5 or 10 years?
  • Share knowledge. These conversations can be a great opportunity to start passing on financial knowledge, especially if your children are not financially experienced. Share your tips on things like budgeting or talk about common money mistakes. Ideally, your children will start to determine their own goals and financial identity because of your example.

    Establishing a common ground provides a foundation for ongoing communication and, eventually, transition.


    Involve professional guidance

    If a financial professional is already helping you manage your financial plan, they can be a great resource to help start — or elevate – family conversations, especially if you or your children are hesitant to bring up money. A professional can identify what information is important and what questions should be asked and answered.


    Most financial professionals will welcome the opportunity to work with their clients’ families. It allows them to see the family’s full financial picture and customize for the family more effectively. And, if they form relationships with your children, they can guide them to approach money the same way you do.


    Spending time talking about money and planning as a family can set clear expectations, prepare everyone for emergencies and pass on financial knowledge.


    Learn about our approach to financial planning.