An unfortunate fact of life is that we don’t always see eye to eye with one another, including loved ones, partners and spouses, or other family members. In certain cases, they may be the people we argue with the most.
Another unfortunate fact? Few things are more contentious and divisive than financial disagreements. No matter how little money you may have, or even how much, disputes are almost guaranteed to arise from time to time.
Still, rather than quarrelling over money matters, there are multiple strategies that can help keep financial feuds from getting out of hand. If you and your family can’t seem to find consensus on dealing with dollars and cents, here are a few things you should try to help keep things calm and under control.
Communication is essential
Many people, especially couples, tend to shy away from talking about money. The more taboo you make financial topics, however, the tougher it will typically be to deal with any issues that arise. Families who keep open lines of communication when it comes to money matters tend to handle their conflicts better and quicker than those who struggle to talk about the subject openly.
Of course, the best time to discuss financial preferences and motivations is before there’s a problem, not after one comes up, so try to schedule some time for an honest, judgement-free dialogue about what’s important to each of you. You may need to have regular follow-up chats so everyone stays abreast of how things are going, what your future plans and goals are, and areas for refinement and improvement.
If financial conversations among relatives involve estate planning or wills, it is especially important to begin those discussions early. It is essential to set expectations, define roles, and confirm successors/executors while the relative in question is still able to communicate their wishes.
As we covered in a previous blog, most of us begin to develop our financial behaviours in childhood, often through lessons we learn from our parents. Of course, that doesn’t always mean siblings will grow up with the same financial philosophies — some people have unique habits and preferences because of their personal tastes and experiences. Either way, being able to explain our thoughts and feelings about money can go a long way to helping our family members understand why we act a certain way, whether it’s a deep-rooted aversion to lavish spending, or the complete opposite.
Consider choosing a point person to handle financial decisions
Not everyone wants the pressure and responsibility of dealing with significant financial decisions. On the other hand, some people can’t bear to not be involved in the process of deciding how financial matters are handled.
Depending on the mix of personality types in your family, it can often be helpful to choose a point person for key financial decisions, delegating responsibility to them when it comes to choosing what’s best. It’s important to make sure there’s consensus on whether this is the right approach for your family, and on who that lead decision maker should be. The last thing you want to do is create more conflict by putting decision-making power in the wrong hands. If you can, try to identify someone who’s more interested in building bridges than being right all the time.
Get help and advice from an outside expert
Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, there’s just no way of finding common ground with a family member when it comes to a financial dispute. If you find yourself in such a situation, one useful strategy to try and resolve the conflict is by seeking guidance from an outside expert. This could be a banker, a financial advisor, an accountant, a mediator, or even a lawyer.
Ideally, the person you choose will be a neutral third party, rather than someone with close ties to you or the family member you’re arguing with. When an impartial expert weighs in with their thoughts on whatever financial matter you’re fighting about, their input and advice can help change opinions, or possibly even offer a suggestion that hasn’t previously been considered.