Frank Talk About Finances

For most families, letting "the elephant" sit in the room seems to be the accepted approach to financial matters. Sometimes when financial planning is overlooked or postponed too long, financial reserves grow thin and one large or a few moderate unexpected expenses can upset an otherwise comfortable lifestyle. In some cases, such expenses lead seniors into debt, resulting in much needed financial support from their adult children.

With a little planning and understanding, however, such conversations are not only possible, but they can bring a family closer together. Here are some simple things you can do to make your conversation more productive:

Be prepared. Think the conversation through ahead of time, research the facts needed for you and your family to make informed decisions, and bring your knowledge to the conversation.

Pick a quiet time to talk. Thanksgiving and other traditional family gatherings may be convenient, but they hardly allow undivided attention on such potentially emotional and complex issues.

Share information. Your goal is to build a picture of your familys overall finances, so that you can work together as a team.

Be sure to follow up. Everyone should leave the discussion with a to-do listand a commitment to meet again at a specific time in the future.

Most of all, listen carefully and suspend your judgment. After all, the success of these discussions depends less on individual financial decisions made in the past than on what you decide as a family about your future.