It's Thanksgiving week. And if you're fortunate, you can look around your Thanksgiving table and see several generations of your family. Of course, as you know, many types of cohesiveness are involved in knitting a family together. But one connection that frequently gets ignored, at least in terms of family dialogue, is the financial linkage between parents and their children on one hand, and these same parents and their parents on the other. So if you find yourself in this "sandwich" group, it may be worth considering your financial position.
If your children are very young, you might want to start by emphasizing the importance of three separate concepts: saving, spending and sharing. If you give them an allowance, or if you pay them to do some minor tasks around the household, you can encourage them to put the money in three separate containers. The "spending" jar is for them to use as they choose, the "saving" jar is to be put in some type of savings or investment account and the "sharing" jar is to be used for contributions to charitable causes. You can extend the spending, saving and sharing themes by encouraging your kids to spend wisely, watch how their savings grow and feel pride in the work done by the charitable groups their dollars support.
Later, when your kids are older, and can earn money by babysitting, mowing lawns or working part-time, you can further encourage good financial habits by offering to match their contributions to a Roth IRA. And be sure to discuss the different types of investments available; they may enjoy learning about the ways in which they can participate in the financial markets.
Above all else, talk to them about the importance of developing good financial skills and how these skills will play a part in your family's overall well being.
Now, let's turn to your parents. If they're elderly, you may find that talking to them about financial issues may be considerably more challenging than talking about these issues with your children. It's unfortunate, but true: People are sensitive about money and often don't want to talk about it.
You may find that you need to be persistent, especially if your parents are getting on in years. Perhaps you encourage them to consider their current position, and what planning might need to be considered. Do they have accounts in a local bank? Where are their investments held? Do they have a financial advisor? Have they worked with legal professionals on any arrangements?
If your parents have expressed interest in leaving a legacy or passing assets to family members, you might consider encouraging them to seek assistance from the appropriate professionals. After all, if something were to happen to your parents without them having made the proper arrangements, their wishes may not be carried out.
So this Thanksgiving, as you think about the value of your family, you might take some time to consider issues that need to be addressed. It may take time and diligence — but when it comes to your loved one's wishes and well-being, it's probably worth the effort.