Mother Knows Best—But Advisors Can Help Families Discuss Money!

Many people bring or send flowers to their mom on special occasions like Mother’s Day. But if you think about it, moms deserve their flowers each and every day for all that they do. Moms can play the crucial roles of nurturer, teacher, doctor, coach, cheerleader, counsellor, confidante and more. From day one, they impart knowledge and instill values to help their kids become the best versions of themselves. The concept of passing on values and knowledge to family regarding wealth and finances is something that resonates with advisors, but it’s an area where clients may struggle. Money can be a highly private and sensitive topic.

Partnering with your Corient Wealth Advisor to help plan and moderate these family meetings can add value across multiple generations. Here are a few high-level considerations to think about as you prepare to educate your children about family finances.

Identify a catalyst

When is the right time to start sharing information about your family’s financial situation? Although the concept of “sooner is better” is often the answer, it’s easy to understand why some people may hesitate. An alternative solution is to plan your first family financial meeting around an engagement catalyst. Think of transitional events like the sale of a family business, a child starting their first job, a child’s marriage or the birth of a grandchild as being good catalysts. Those milestones can give purpose to the timing of the meeting and may ease some of the awkwardness if your family typically doesn’t discuss finances as a group.   

Select the participants

Who should be involved? As parents, you will likely know best. In most cases, you’ll want all your adult children involved because the whole purpose is to equip them with the knowledge they need to make better decisions about their own financial future. Beyond that, it’s up to you to determine whether it’s appropriate for additional family members to attend, such as a child’s spouse. If you don’t have children, consider involving any family members or other loved ones who may be beneficiaries of your future estate.

You may also want to have other professionals present, depending on the depth and complexity of the information you plan to share. Some family meetings may involve wealth advisors, trust and estate attorneys, accountants and insurance professionals. Not only are they able to provide expert insight on strategies and solutions, but it could also be practical for the next generation to meet your team and become familiar with them.    

Prepare the content and conduct the meeting

What should be discussed? This is the beauty of being in control: you have a blank canvas to work with. The types of conversations you may have with an advisor usually pertain to the level of transparency you desire to have in your meetings. For instance, if you have an open and trusting relationship with your advisor and comfortable divulging all financial information to their children, including account balances, the potential conversations are endless. They can range from a deep dive into the portfolio holdings to running projections on what their inheritance might be.

In reality, most clients are not that comfortable with full disclosure. For those who prefer to start by keeping these discussions at a higher level, here are five ideas for the family meeting that are worth contemplating with your advisor as you prepare the meeting agenda:

  1. Build out a family tree and use it to talk through the history of your family’s wealth. It may help uncover the values and work ethic of different family members. It could lead to a greater appreciation for both the creation and responsible transfer of wealth through generations.
  2. Create a family mission statement with the goal of communicating your values to your children and intentions for the distribution of your family’s wealth. It can help get everyone on the same page and, ideally, prevent future disagreements or misunderstandings.
  3. Review an estate plan flow chart. This doesn’t have to be elaborate or include any specific numbers, but can serve to illustrate the flow of assets between different entities (individuals, trusts, charities, etc.). Again, it’s useful for everybody to hear the same message firsthand.
  4. Assign roles and tasks to each family member to help promote engagement and responsibility. Be creative! For example, a child could be assigned the role of the family’s Chief Travel Officer, and her task might be to plan an annual family trip on a given budget. This could provide a sense of ownership and make her feel comfortable participating in the meeting and discussing finances.
  5. In general, it may be a good idea to gain a sense, in advance, of what the next generation is interested in or curious about, so that those points can be addressed at the meeting. To run a productive session, also share your key “rules of engagement” (e.g., no interrupting someone who’s talking, all questions are good questions, everyone stays respectful, etc.).

Post-meeting engagement

What’s next? Consider using this meeting to set a precedent and agree on the frequency of family meetings going forward. We believe the key to success is to continue engaging the next generation. A common practice for advisors is to make ourselves available to meet, one-on-one, with clients’ children to discuss their individual financial situation confidentially. It helps keep them focused and continues the education process while alleviating some of the pressure from their parents. Within the family, parents are usually well served by keeping the line of communication open and soliciting questions and topics of conversation from their children.

Think about the sharing of knowledge and values to help facilitate better decision making. Since money can be a highly personal and potentially contentious topic, we recognize that these conversations may not be easy. To help make the process run smoother, consider partnering with your Corient Wealth Advisor to guide your family through these important conversations so they’re as productive and comfortable as possible.


Michael Pappachristou, CFP

Michael Pappachristou, CFP

Wealth Advisor

Mike is Wealth Advisor at our Morristown, NJ, office. He is responsible for building client relationships, analyzing their financial pictures and providing recommendations to help them achieve their financial and legacy planning goals. He joined legacy firm RegentAtlantic in 2016 and was a member of the firm’s Financial Planning Committee, providing thought leadership across a range of financial planning topics. Mike appreciates working with families across multiple generations and keeping their goals and values in mind at all times.


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