Earlier this year, I wrote about the importance of talking with your parents about estate planning. Too often we view any sort of financial discussion among family as the third-rail of family talks.
Parents not wanting to “burden the kids” with their financial struggles (we all have them) ends up turning any talk about money into a burdensome task. The cycle repeats itself until talking about money = pain. This emotional cycle has carried on for generations as kids that learn Money Talk = Pain become adults that get married to another person who grew up learning that Money Talk = Pain as well.
It’s obvious that this isn’t healthy, and all couples need to be able to discuss money, especially those starting a family. So how do we do this in a healthy way?
The New York Times published an article by Carl Richards of Behavior Gap and it is one of the best articles on Money Talk I have ever read. I cannot encourage you enough to read it and then send it to your spouse, friends and family.
This passage by Carl is one of the key points:
To be clear, this is not about avoiding guilt or shirking responsibility. Guilt is part of the process and accepting responsibility is what adults do. Shame and guilt are not the same thing. I love how Brené Brown, a researcher and author whose work has focused on understanding shame, explains the differences. Shame is something we internalize and we capture it with a statement like, “I’m a bad person.” With guilt, we focus on the action and say “I made a mistake.”
It’s O.K. to point out that your partner (or you) made a mistake, but it’s not okay to shame them for it. Remember, the goal here is to make fewer mistakes. Guilt is adaptive, according to Dr. Brown, because it allows us to learn. But shame just makes us feel bad about ourselves. It doesn’t help us at all.
The whole article is masterful and