Things can get ugly fast when family members disagree over money matters

Men Arm Wrestling over Money / Does Your Family Fight Over Money? These Tips Can Help Resolve the Problems
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April 07, 2017

Few things in life get people riled up as fast and deeply as money. Our attitudes toward financial matters are often deeply ingrained in us from childhood and are reflected in everything we do, every decision we make. Should we buy or rent? Spend or save?

It's no surprise, then, that we get passionate when talking about money with someone who holds different views. Unfortunately, what may start out as a calm discussion of different opinions can quickly degenerate into a full-fledged argument, especially when the people involved are members of the same family. What to do?

Don't worry. There are strategies you can use to keep things calm when talking about money. See below for tips on how to solve financial problems and keep the peace at the same time.

  1. Meet in a neutral location
  2. According to state district court judge and author John Roach, people generally keep their voices down and control their emotions more when they're out and about rather than at home. He suggests a casual restaurant, while certified financial planner Holly Gillian Kindel recommends taking a walk in a more natural location like a park.

    "Studies find people are better able to process information and come up with creative ideas while engaged in physical activity in nature," Kindel says.

  3. Stick to one topic
  4. We get overwhelmed when we try to cover too much ground at one time. Focus on one subject at a time. For example, if you and your siblings are trying to figure out how to handle a parent's daily care, focus on how much it will cost and how you'll pay for it first. You can talk about who will be in charge of the care later.

  5. Hire a professional
  6. If you're trying to deal with a particularly thorny issue, you can help the discussion stay on track by hiring a neutral third party, like a financial planner or CPA. This person can also be responsible for handing out different tasks or requiring everyone to share necessary documents.

    "Having a pro involved takes the pressure off of you," says wealth manager Robert Karn. "Let him be the bad guy."

  7. Listen actively
  8. It's all too easy to misunderstand what someone else is trying to say. One way to keep this from happening is to rephrase what the other person says in your own words to make sure that what they're saying and what you're hearing are the same thing. It also helps them to feel like you care about their point of view because you're actively engaging with them.

  9. Be respectful
  10. Ignore the temptation—however powerful it is—to assume you know what someone else is about to say and interrupt them. Show respect for what they're saying by waiting until they've finished before you respond.

  11. Agree to disagree
  12. Even if people do everything they can to respectfully and peacefully resolve their differences, there's no guarantee that either will change their mind. Sometimes you just have to let things go and move on.

References: Consumer Reports: "Solving Family Money Fights"