Article by: MaryEllen | Thursday, January 15, 2015

by Pamela Yellen

What if I told you that you have a powerful financial resource at your fingertips that you aren’t using?

And that all you had to do to activate that resource was to set aside one evening per month, order in pizza and gather the family around the dinner table?

And what if I told you that, not only will this evening help you meet your financial goals, but it will also strengthen your relationship with your partner and train your kids to be savvy about handling money?

Would you be interested?

I call it a Family Financial Discussion Night.  

Okay, so the name sounds as fun as having your teeth cleaned.  But this simple, practical process can transform your family finances and greatly reduce your stress levels.  And I’m going to show you exactly how to make it a tradition the whole family will look forward to!

Why We Don’t Talk About Money

Many people consider it downright rude to talk about money unless you’re in your accountant’s office or facing the IRS firing squad.

Nine out of ten couples avoid talking about critical issues related to finances, household expenses and debt, according to a survey by American Express.  More than 10% said they had never talked about money with their spouse.  And some claimed they knew their partner’s weight but not their salary!

Why?  Two thirds of those in the survey said that discussing finances always led to arguments.  Apparently, for some folks, talking about money is like lighting a match to see if your gas tank is empty.
And what about the kids?  Today, typically one or both parents head off to jobs, and children rarely understand what their parents do to support the family financially.  Money discussions – if there are any – are held behind closed doors so “we won’t worry the children.”

The result?  Many kids grow up thinking the ATM is a magic money machine that spits money out of a wall whenever you need it!

The Family Financial Team Way Back When

Historically, the family was considered an economic unit.  And everyone in the family – Mom, Dad and children – was important to that unit.  The “stay-at-home” partner was just as necessary to the family’s financial future as the one plowing the fields.  Kids weren’t just mouths to feed but helped out with the family farm or family business.

The family didn’t expect just one “bread-winner” to provide for the family. Everyone contributed to the family’s economic well-being in some form.

Youngsters back then learned to be responsible, the value of hard work, and that they could make a real difference for their families.  They felt proud of themselves, resourceful, and confident.  They weren’t caught off guard when they struck out on their own, because they knew exactly what it took to provide for a family.

And couples working side by side formed strong bonds, learning to trust, respect and depend on each other no matter what.

Today’s Modern Family Financial Team

Today, few of us have family farms or businesses.  We head off to separate jobs and even keep separate accounts.  We rarely discuss money as a team and rarely bring the kids into our discussions.
The result?  Stress all around.

But it doesn’t need to be that way.

Monthly Family Financial Discussion Nights can help achieve your financial goals and overcome your financial challenges – as a team.

Once you get the hang of it, this will become a night everyone looks forward to! And by having these discussions every month, you’ll avoid the dramatic and traumatic money blow-ups many families have, that too often lead to breakups.

How to Run a Great Family Financial Discussion Night

2015-01-15 family nightYour Family Financial Discussion Night is both an occasion and a collaborative team meeting.  Get creative to make it fun and enjoyable by including prizes, games and treats.

Your team’s project is to build your family’s financial future and to help each person achieve their individual goals.  All team members have a voice and responsibility for the success of the project.

Like any well-run meeting, start with an agenda.  Here’s one that really works:

#1.  Acknowledge progress toward your family and individual goals  

If you haven’t established family financial goals, do so!  Some will be long term (e.g., saving for college) and some will be shorter term (e.g., buying a new bike).  Because debt can be deadly to your financial well-being, reducing debt should be a top priority.  Another key goal should be building your safe and liquid rainy day fund to help weather life’s emergencies.  Put all goals in writing!

Create visuals to track progress.  Make a chart for each goal, with stars or stickers for accomplishments, or a thermometer drawing that gets colored in from the bottom to the top as you get closer to the goal.
Congratulate each other for any individual contributions made.  Give out tokens for special treats or exchange back rubs and foot massages.  Any kind of acknowledgment for good work done sets the tone for productive, rather than destructive, conversations.

#2.  Review your goals

Remind yourselves why your goals are important.  Will your emergency fund goal let you sleep well at night?  If you’re saving up a special vacation, talk about what you’ll do and how fun it will be.

Make a college fund seem real by talking about different colleges, what your child wants to study, or experiences from your own education.  Remind yourselves that these goals aren’t just numbers on paper, but the means to create the life you desire.  

#3.  Review last month’s spending

Let each individual talk about their spending, what they felt they did right and where they didn’t make the best choices.  Discuss spending in terms of need versus want.

You’re not here to judge but to learn.  Open the conversation by admitting your own missteps to create a sense of safety for your children to do the same.  Did you get snagged by the “Buy One, Get One Free” special on Chunky Monkey ice cream?  Spend your week’s lunch money on an extravagant gift?  Admit it.

Don’t give each other advice on how to change spending missteps.  Instead, ask each person how they might handle it differently in the future – then ask how the family can support them.

Keep it light.  One dad I know of brings out a clown nose and puts it on while he talks about his money missteps.  One couple ends each financial confession with, “Betcha can’t top that one!”

#4.  Talk about expenditures for the coming month  

Any unusual expenses coming up?  Ask yourselves, “Is a need or a want?”  Play the “Hotter/Colder” game to decide if potential purchases will move you closer to or farther from your goals.  Is there a less expensive way to obtain whatever it is?

Take a look at the family’s normal monthly expenses.  Any new ideas to save money?  Get creative and make it fun to find ways to spend less.  Give small rewards for good money-saving ideas, like getting off the hook for washing dishes that week.

#5.  Adjust your goals  

Sometimes you’ll realize a deadline just isn’t realistic.  Talk about it as a team.  Decide whether to reprioritize your goals, modify deadlines on certain goals, lower certain goals, or discard them altogether.

I never recommend giving up on goals just because they seem a little tough to accomplish.  But sometimes what was once important becomes less important.  Be flexible.  A new car may have seemed important until you got the opportunity to travel to Africa.  Would you rather put off the car and go on the adventure?  Make sure that your goals are important targets that are worth the effort.

#6.  Create new goals  

After a while, you’ll realize the power and fun of setting and working on your financial goals as a team.  Be sure to keep goals fresh by adding new ones as you accomplish older ones.

#7.  Wrap up the meeting  

For a positive and productive close:

1.    Summarize what you discussed.
2.    Remind everyone that what’s discussed in the family stays in the family.  Don’t share it with friends, or post it on Facebook or Twitter.
3.    Agree on what needs to be done before next month’s meeting, who will do what, and who’s going to see that it gets done.
4.    Set a date and time for the next meeting.
5.    Celebrate!  Bring out the ice cream or the bubbly!

About the Author

Working Moms Only Expert, Pamela YellenPamela Yellen is a financial investigator and the author of two New York Times best-selling books, including her latest, The Bank On Yourself Revolution:  Fire Your Banker, Bypass Wall Street, and Take Control of Your Own Financial Future.  She is creator of Your Money Revolution – a comprehensive, step-by-step financial transformation program for taking control of your money and eliminating financial stress and worry from your life.

Pamela Yellen has put together a new Special Report on five life-changing and life-saving discoveries she’s made that are truly amazing.  Click here to get your free copy.