Hard Conversations: The Money Talks You Must Have

iStock-1302382660Hard Conversations: The Money Talks You Must Have


Does talking about money make you uncomfortable? You’re not the only one.

A new study by Empower “found that 62% don’t talk about money — not with their family (63%), not with their friends (75%), and not even with their spouse/partner (46%). People would rather discuss other potentially flammable topics instead, like politics (43%) and, more morbidly, death (32%), than their finances.”

Much of this is because we have been taught NOT to talk about money.

But there are times when you must have hard conversations about money. This is especially true for Christians who are called to be good stewards of our money and to give generously.

According to The Gospel Coalition, “Money is a big deal in the Bible. We’re given more instruction in the Bible about money (more than 2,000 verses) than almost anything else. Jesus told many parables about it, and the apostles had a lot to say about it. We’re told to avoid the love of money (1 Tim. 6:6–10) and to choose God over money (Luke 16:13), so we can be generous and ready to give (Matt. 6:2, 5, 16) and put our trust in God, not riches (1 Tim. 6:17–19). We’re also encouraged to plan and save (Prov. 21:20) and look after the needs of our families and others (1 Tim. 5:8; Heb. 13:16).”

Rather than discussing how Christians should manage their money, we’re going to take time today to discuss how to actually talk about money.

Unfortunately, many Christians avoid having hard conversations about money – and it winds up causing problems.

We get it. It’s awkward and uncomfortable. But there are some hard money conversations you must have before problems arise (such as before marriage or before sending kids off to college).

Here are some tips to help you navigate these hard money talks.

Tips for Hard Money Conversations

Since talking about money is uncomfortable, it’s good to have an idea of how to handle the conversation before starting it.

Here are some tips that will help you have a fruitful conversation.

  1. Familiarize yourself first. Before you talk to someone else about money, it’s important to know where you stand financially. For example, you don’t want to tell your kids you’ll pay for college when you haven’t actually looked into the cost of college or your current retirement savings.
  2. Identify the goal of the conversation. Before you have the hard conversation, identify the goal. What do you want to learn or others to learn from this conversation? What is the end goal? Do you simply want to have every family member on the same page? Do you want to leave the conversation having a better understanding of what your loved one needs? Do you want to use the conversation as a springboard for paying off debt and creating a budget? Have an idea of what you want from the conversation before you start talking.
  3. Seek wise, godly counsel. It is always a good idea to seek wise, godly counsel. This may look like reading financial materials by Christians, speaking to your mentor, or visiting a financial advisor. We don’t often talk about money openly, but everyone deals with money. Learn from other’s mistakes. Ask questions of those who seem to be good stewards what steps they’ve taken.
  4. Find the right setting. As we’ve mentioned in our other hard conversation blogs, the setting matters. You want to have this conversation somewhere private and at a time when those involved are more relaxed.
  5. Be honest. When discussing money, it is tempting to tell some white lies or exaggerate. This is wrong. Be honest with others about the financial situation. For example, if you are entering marriage with debt, your future spouse needs to know you are and by how much.
  6. Use clear language. Money matters should be discussed using clear language and not vague terms. For example, you don’t want to tell your adult children you’ve got everything covered. Instead, you want to tell them you have done estate planning and have long-term care insurance.

Specific Tips for the Marriage Money Talk

Quite possibly the most important hard money conversation you have will be the one you have before you get married.

Money is the main thing married couples fight about, and a leading cause of divorce.

The “for richer, for poorer” part of the marriages vows starts on day one.

If your spouse is in debt, you are now in debt.

If your spouse inherited wealth, you inherited wealth.

If you and your fiancé have different values regarding spending and saving, it’s better to know now.

According to Got Questions, “Financial decisions that impact the success of the family are a shared responsibility. Whatever the source of God’s provisions, whether the result of the husband’s employment or the wife’s employment or both, the assets accumulated are the responsibility of both partners together as a team. The important principle in regard to financial decisions is to ‘do all to the glory of God’ (1 Corinthians 10:31; Romans 14:8; Colossians 3:23-24).”

  • Ask important questions before you get married. Talk to each other about how you plan to handle money when married, how much debt you’ll have together, your financial goals, etc.
  • Make joint financial decisions while married. You won’t deal with nearly as many surprises in your bank account if you make your financial decisions together. It is also wise to create a budget together.
  • Identify your family’s money values. Take time to discuss your money values. For example, how much do you plan to tithe or give? Do you value spending or saving?

Specific Tips for the College Money Talk

It’s important to talk to your teenagers about money for college before their senior year. You’d hate for them to fall in love with a dream college only to discover it is unaffordable.

  • Decide how much help you will give (and what kind). When you begin to have these conversations with your teen, you need to already know what you can do (if anything at all). Tell your teen what to expect. For example, you may not be able to pay for tuition, but you are willing to help with room and board. Or you may give your teen a dollar amount and suggest he can attend whatever college as long as it is within this budget.
  • Share your experiences with money and debt. Be straightforward. Your teen may pushback, especially if she has a school in mind or if you’ve never really talked about money. This is your opportunity to provide parental wisdom. Share your experiences with saving money, earning money, and paying off debt.
  • Offer other suggestions. As you discuss college costs, be sure to offer other suggestions, such as attending a local community college, working to save money, or applying for scholarships.

Specific Tips for the 40/70 Money Talk

One of the money talks that makes people feel uncomfortable is the one that needs to happen as children become adults and parents become seniors.

Unfortunately, these conversations are often neglected, and many issues arise as elderly parents need care.

For example, consider the following statistics from a Fidelity Investments study.

  • 92% of parents expect their children will assume the role of executor; however, 27% of children identified as executor didn’t know this was expected of them.
  • 69% of parents expect one of their children will help manage their investments in retirement; however, 36% of kids identified in this role didn’t know this was expected of them.
  • 72% of parents expect one of their children will assume long-term caregiver responsibilities in retirement if needed; however, 40% of children identified as the caregiver didn’t know it was them.

The general rule is to have this hard money conversation as parents’ approach 70 and adult children approach 40. If you are in this season of life, here are some tips for talking to your adult children about the future.

  • Use estate planning tools. Estate planning, which includes wills, trusts, power of attorney, and life insurance, details where your assets go after you die. Without estate planning, the burden of these decisions falls to the courts and your adult children.
  • Be honest about your expectations for your kids. If you haven’t invested in long-term care insurance and are planning on your children taking care of you when the time comes, you need to let them know.
  • Prepare them for potential inheritance or debt payoff. A significant number of young people expect to receive an inheritance, when, many will not receive one. Additionally, if there is an inheritance, this inheritance may have to be used to pay off debt. Try your best not to leave them with any surprises.

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