Statistically speaking, Americans don’t like to talk about money.
In fact, according to a TD Ameritrade survey on Financial Taboos, Americans would rather talk about health issues, politics and religion than money or personal finance. So how do advisors get clients and their families talk about money when they’re so unwilling to talk about it?
We communicated with several advisors about their strategies for getting clients to open up:
Goals, Not Money
One of the best ways advisors have found to have conversations about money without the dread or the tension is by taking the emphasis off the money and instead focusing on the client’s goals.
“Rather than talk about the money itself, talk about your vision, the vision for the family (similar to a family mission statement), the personal goals the family members have and how they benefit them individually, how they benefit the family as a unit and how they benefit the community," said Matthew Gaffey, senior wealth manager at Corbett Road Wealth Management in Potomac Falls, Va.
Make It Relatable
Talking about money and personal finance can be the most productive when you remove the feeling of judgment from the discussion.
In order to do that, telling stories of personal experiences, past client cautionary tales and other anecdotes can go along way in breaking down the communications barrier.
“In my experience, real empathy creates powerful connections and breaks down communication barriers. We tend to feel like our family money issues or struggles are unique to us and cause for embarrassment.” said Benjamin Simiskey of Katy, Texas. “By sharing a personal experience or otherwise demonstrating empathy, we can address both of those concerns and help to ease fears.”
Clients and advisors can learn a lot from discovery meetings and talks about money. One thing advisors should keep in mind during these conversations is to leave breathing room.
“Be mindful that you will not cover everything at this first family meeting. Ideally, this meeting will be the start of a conversation, so you don’t have to get it all “right” the first time,” said Patti Black of Birmingham, Ala.
In order to keep the conversation productive, some advisors limit the discussion to prevent tension from building up between family members.
“These discussions are often difficult,” said Mitchell Krauss of Santa Monica, Calif. “We recommend starting slow and knowing you can put limits on the conversation.”
Here are a few tips for starting money conversations off right:
1. Schedule time to chat. It may be helpful to schedule a time to have this conversation, so the other party doesn’t feel like you are springing the topic on your client(s).
2. Never talk money on an empty stomach. Share a meal together before you start talking. It helps you settle into the conversation and also ensures that no one will be “hangry” – hungry and angry.
3. Take it outside - to the patio or deck - if the weather allows. Studies have shown that being outside lowers stress and makes us happier.
4. Plan the seating arrangements. Sit side-by-side rather than facing one another to make the conversation less intimidating.
Cassie Miller is a contributing writer for AdvisorNews. She has spent nearly two years covering Finserv topics. She also has an extensive background in magazine writing, editing and design.