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Most of the time when couples sit down together and attempt to discuss money, someone is yelling, and the other person is no longer listening. Not really the recipe for a successful family budget meeting.
It’s never healthy, and most of the time nothing gets resolved.
Few people find it easy to talk about money. Money is still a taboo subject in our society with many of us from families who considered talking about money to be rude, inappropriate and impolite.
Despite the desire to stay silent, engaging in a family budget meeting is an important skill to master. You might want to skip this step, but with a little training you can engage in productive discussions with your partner, husband or family and can master the family budget meeting.
Today I’m going to teach you how to conduct a family budget meeting so you can engage in a healthy financial dialogue with your family.
If you’re single, choose a close friend or family member and do the exercise with them.
No matter who you pick, single or married, make sure this person is a safe person, a trusted friend, partner, loved one, or coach. Select a time for the meeting that is good for both parties. Make sure it’s time that will be uninterrupted by work, daily demands, children or other family or personal responsibilities.
Before the family budget meeting agree on a time limit. It should take somewhere between 30 minutes and one hour. More time is not better here.
Review the Guidelines below.
Family Budget Meeting Conversation Guidelines
Before jumping into the conversation, you must have some ground rules from which to operate. Here are a few I recommend:
1. Be Respectful
It is important to treat each other with respect during the meeting. No name calling, swearing, yelling or blaming language should be used. Listen actively (explained below) and do not interrupt when the other person is speaking. You’ll get your turn.
2. Use “I” Statements
Always start your conversation with an “I” statement. For example say, “I’m concerned about the overspending” instead of “Your overspending is out of control.” It may feel like a subtle difference, but it’s not. One is a statement of observation, and the other is a statement of blame. Using “I” statements will get you off on the right foot.
3. Actively Listen
This type of listening involves paying attention to what the person is saying and their non-verbal communication cues to find the meaning behind what your partner is saying.
Learning this technique takes time, but with some practice, it’s a very effective way of discussing money.
Steps to Active Listening
- A person expresses an opinion
I think we should save more money because we know from experience emergencies will come up, and I fear if we don’t have an adequate savings fund we’ll get into more financial trouble.
- The listener clarifies his or her perceptions of what was said
What I hear you saying is you want to save money into an emergency fund to keep from getting into more financial trouble and to feel safe.
- The first speaker then restates the essential points and ideas
Yes, and to also have an emergency fund, so we don’t have to keep using credit cards. This would make me feel more secure about our financial future.
- The listener then summarizes the content of the message to check validity and to acknowledge the opinion and contribution of the person
You want to save more money for an emergency fund so we can stop using credit cards and feel more secure about our financial future. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me.
When you go into a family budget meeting, start by discovering everything you can about your partner’s point of view.
In your mind pretend you don’t know anything about them or how they feel. Truth be told, you really don’t. Time and time again we make assumptions about what a person’s actions or words actually mean without ever asking them for clarification. Now’s the time to do just that!
Watch their body language and unspoken words too.
Freely let them talk until they are finished. Don’t interrupt and whatever you hear don’t take personally.
Just learn as much as you can during this phase of the conversation. Remember you’ll get your turn, so don’t rush the process.
Don’t Assume Anything
Often we assume we know someone’s intentions when we don’t. You have to ask to know and understand what someone intended in any given moment. Remember you may make an educated guess, but it will be based on YOUR money scripts and beliefs and not your partners. Jumping to conclusions and reading the other person’s mind can result in frustration and anger that is unproductive and often unfounded. Do yourself and your partner a favor and don’t read minds.
Money conversations can get emotional really fast because money taps into our primitive sense of security in the world. So tread lightly and remember the goal is to understand each other’s point of view, to keep an open mind and to keep the door open for additional money conversations.
The goal of the meeting is to give each person the chance to understand each other’s perspective about money. It’s not intended for each party to reach any consensus as you’re setting the groundwork for future money communication to take place.
You’ll start the conversation by having Participant #1 answer the following question:
What are you most proud of regarding your financial situation?
By starting off this way, you’re setting the stage for both parties to share something positive and that they are satisfied with their financial life.
When Participant #1 is done answering this questions completely, Participant #2 reflects back what he or she heard by saying: “What I hear you saying is…”
It is extremely important that when relaying back to your partner what you heard them say you use their exact words. Don’t insert your personal judgment on what was said as this is not the time to express your opinion. When finished, switch roles and complete the exercise again.
After both parties have had a chance to complete the exercise, take the time to separately answer the questions in the handout for this section.
You will be sharing your information with each other once you’ve had time to complete the questionnaire. Use the same active listening technique as before.
Now you’re armed and ready to have future conversations with your partner and family about money and hold a successful family budget meeting!