Family Financial Planning Discussions
Nov. 18, 2019 Article

The Holiday Planning Talk: Starting The Family Conversation


With the holiday season rapidly approaching, many families will travel long distances and brave busy roads and airways to spend time with those most important to them. These family gatherings are typically filled with stories of the past, maybe a festive meal and potentially even a nap immediately following said festive meal. With so much family time spent together, the one thing that seems to commonly be overlooked is taking time to discuss some of the more important topics and issues that a family might face in the future.

While certainly not the easiest of conversations to have, intimate time spent with family can provide some of the best opportunities to really connect with the ones we love and ensure that, should something happen in the year to come, everyone is on the same page and better prepared for the unknown. The list of topics these conversations could cover is vast and will vary with each family’s unique circumstances, but generally estate planning, charitable giving and rudimentary planning topics for younger generations are all great conversations to have.

If estate planning discussions were to ever get a bad wrap, it’s probably because traditional discussions around it have focused solely on death, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Focusing instead on the way an individual or couple have lived their lives, and ensuring their legacy and principals are carried on for generations to come, can serve as a great way for people to look at estate planning from a much more philosophical approach.

In talking with family about estate planning, topics covered will likely vary based on the ages of those involved. For elderly parents, making sure the children are aware a plan is in place and what that plan generally looks like may be sufficient. This is a highly subjective and nuanced situation since every family is different and some children may be better equipped than others to handle information related to a future inheritance or lack thereof. It’s sometimes easier to bridge the subject by focusing on the ‘why,’ rather than the ‘who’ and ‘how much.’ For example, if the founder of a business sold his or her interest last year and wants to leave the entire estate to charity, rather than simply stating that to his or her children, it might be better to explain the importance of the charity and why is a cause he or she wants to support, allowing the children to pave their own financial paths.

Charitable giving and planning are major topics for a lot of families, but tend to not be discussed like they should. This holiday season, consider taking time as a family to reflect back on any charitable acts or gifts family members have made throughout the year. Then, inform others of why it was important to support that charity. Parents may have been making gifts for several years, but it’s easy to forget that without conveying the importance of that charitable involvement to their children, kids may never come to realize how important it is in their parents’ lives. To address that disconnect, it may be helpful for parents to talk through what charities they think are important or that the family might collectively support, then make a family-wide contribution based on that discussion. Coordinating a day for the family to volunteer as a group can not only provide assistance to one of several charities that are really busy during this time of year, but also has the added benefit of bringing a family closer together in a positive way.

One final consideration for families to address is discussing generally what members of the family are doing to save and prepare for the future. For a recently engaged couple, that might mean talking about retitling assets and consolidating bank accounts while ensuring that beneficiary designations are updated on retirement accounts. For parents with younger children, talking about the importance of portioning any cash gifts received between spending, saving, and charity is a great way to emphasize early on the importance of planning for the future and giving back. Getting into specific numbers isn’t always necessary in these instances, but for older generations especially, it can be impactful to share mistakes or lessons learned in dealing with their own finances with younger generations.

While these topics may seem difficult to broach initially, putting many of these discussion points out in the open can have a major impact on how family members view their finances. Generally, these are not one-off discussions, and it will take time for various elements to be comprehensively covered, but this gradual approach can have a lasting impact on a family’s well-being and togetherness over the long term. Still having a hard time deciding where to begin? Check out some of our articles below focused on estate planning, charitable giving and talking to kids about money to provide an overview on the various topics involved.


The views expressed are for commentary purposes only and do not take into account any individual personal, financial, or tax considerations. It is not intended to be personal legal or investment advice or a solicitation to buy or sell any security or engage in a particular investment strategy.

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