Communication is the process through which we transfer information to each other. Although modern forms of communication have increased (emails, texts, letters, social media), connecting with each other is still at the foundation of our humanity. We just have to talk. We especially have to talk when it comes to our household finances.
Family communication, in particular, melds us together in profound and lasting ways. Without it, the family would inevitably disintegrate.
Communications simple secrets.
Effective family communication requires every member to pay attention to what others are saying, how they’re saying it, and to identify the feelings behind words and gestures.[i] Genuine listening is the most overlooked aspect of good communication. It’s the part that makes communication two-way.
Talking about money.
Every household has a budget of sorts. It may be a rigid, tightly structured, highly detailed plan or a more carefree, open-ended, and vague financial construct that gets little oversight or review. Or, more likely, it’s something somewhere in between. While budgets or financial strategies are often assembled based on personalities and preferences, they do require mutual input from family members.
An appropriate division of labor that designates who manages the budget or who pays the bills is important. But an arrangement where one partner or family member oversees the finances while the others are kept in the dark is unproductive and unhealthy.
Communication (and consensus) is necessary to bring vitality and direction to families and finances.
While simply discussing family finances is good, budget meetings become even more effective when they’re done with regularity. Holding monthly (or more frequent) meetings will help coalesce your visions and shape the goals of your family.
Here are nine steps for a successful family financial meeting:[ii]
Schedule it. Put the meeting on your calendar. It should not be spontaneous. Hold it at a mutually convenient and appropriate time.
Set the timer. You’re not running a marathon or a congressional hearing. Make it short—30 minutes or so—and sweet.
Eliminate distractions. Turn off the TV. Put your phone away. Make sure the chores are done. Make your meeting an investment of time.
Include some delicious distractions. We’re talking snacks, which make meetings more enticing.
Go prepared. Bring pens, papers, or whatever other tools you’ll need to develop and monitor your family budget and finances. You can use online budgeting tools or apps.
Order in the court. Or the budget meeting. Follow a progressive meeting plan, such as listing income first. Then proceed by dividing and segmenting money into individual categories: donations, utilities, debt, fun stuff.
Allow for objections. You’re trying to create a team plan to financial management. You may have other priorities and preferences than other participants in the meetings. Discuss them and reach an agreement. Find ways to compromise.
Watch the clock. If you’re having trouble or facing challenges, consider addressing contentious matters at another meeting. Stick to your allotted time.
Rules of engagement. Budgets are wonderful tools to reach your goal, but without a way to track spending, it’s just a piece of paper or online platform. Put your budget to work for you by making sure you plug in income and spending numbers regularly and consistently.
If you would like to discuss your current financial plans or budgeting strategies, we’re happy to talk.
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