5 Steps to Talking to Adult Children About Finances

Are you comfortable talking about money? Most people aren’t.

A recent survey of 5,000 Americans found that personal financial discussions are reportedly the most difficult conversations to have, surpassing even the difficulty of talking about one’s own death[1]

According to the survey, the most difficult conversations to have are about:

  • Personal finance 44%
  • Death 38%
  • Politics 35%
  • Religion 32%

Now, add to this the complexities of the family dynamic, and conversations about money are rife with the potential for awkward revelations, misunderstandings and hurt feelings.

But while difficult, just about everyone with adult children needs to sit them down and talk about money. That’s because your kids will benefit from:

  • Understanding what your financial situation is
  • Seeing you address it directly
  • Learning if they may someday inherit money
  • Knowing if your affairs (think wills, trusts and estate planning) are in order
  • Determining what they may be responsible for down the road

But how do you go about having this conversation?

What follows are 5 steps that, while by no means comprehensive, should help move the process along and get everyone in your family on the same page.

5 Steps to Talking to Adult Children About Finances

1) Ease into it

Casually mention over a few weeks or months, as though you’ve just remembered something you forgot at the grocery store: “Oh, I’ve/we’ve been thinking about it, and at some point we should probably discuss our finances.”

If your children express alarm at the prospect: “Is something wrong?” Be direct, but matter-of-fact: “Nothing at all is wrong. This is how conversations about money work.”

2) Hold the meeting in the presence of a 3rd party

One of the best ways to avoid conflict and to add an air of professionalism is to hold this meeting with your advisor.

It’s likely you’ve never had more financially direct conversations in your life than those with your advisor. He or she knows your situation inside and out.

My experience has been that the fear of the event is almost always much more difficult to overcome than anything that happens in the actual meeting.

3) Invite everyone

Aside an unfortunate situation where there’s a family member who is estranged, it helps if every child can get the exact same information at the same time. Children who live far away should at least dial in or use your advisor’s video conferencing service so they too are “physically” in the room.

4) Get your plan in place

It’s imperative that you know what you are going to discuss, what you are going to leave out, and precisely what you want to accomplish.

If you are going to hold the meeting with your advisor present, it almost goes without saying that you need to speak with him or her early and often about what you would like to cover.

5) Information is power (and it soothes anxieties)

You certainly don’t want to suddenly pass away and leave your children scrambling to find documents, or, worse, shocked by what’s in your will. (If you don’t have a will, you need to get something drawn up ASAP. There’s an entire chapter about this topic in Personal Decision Points.)

Let your children know where they can find what they’ll need in the event of your death, and then decide if you want to use the meeting to divulge the contents of your will. Equal treatment of all children may require nothing more than a simple “The will is split evenly,” assurance.


While likely not an easy process, I don’t know anyone who regretted having a well-planned conversation with their adult children about finances. It should soothe your anxieties, ease the fears of your children, and it could go a long way toward helping them have a healthier relationship with money.

For more information about talking to your adult children about your finances, speak with an advisor today.

[1] Reuters March 27th, 2016