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5 ways to talk about money with your family this Thanksgiving

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The conversations need to come off as being fun and reflective. – Syble Solomon, Money Habitudes

Thanksgiving is supposed to be a time for gratitude, but it’s also becoming just as commercial as Christmas, maybe even more. However, there are some money-related topics families can broach at Thanksgiving that have the potential to bring them closer together, not split them across the city trying to score the best deals.

DeseretNews.com talked to Syble Solomon, creator of the “Money Habitudes” conversation starters, to find out what she thought about talking money at Thanksgiving. We’ve also compiled advice from The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

"I think talking (about money) at Thanksgiving is a good idea,” Solomon told the Deseret News. “However, I would be really, really careful about having conversations that could be considered judgmental … (or) where you come off as looking negative.” Thanksgiving is supposed to bring people together, after all.

“The conversations need to come off as being fun and reflective,” she explained.

So here are a few tips about how you can talk about money with your family this Thanksgiving and still have a “fun and reflective” holiday.

1. Talk about your favorite gift

Instead of just talking about what you’re grateful for around the dinner table, Solomon suggests that families also go around the table and share the most memorable gift they’ve been given.

What was the gift “that gave you the most joy” or “that you remember the most?” asked Solomon.

“One of the things that happens is that, almost always, people are going to remember experiences, times they shared with somebody,” she explained. And if that happens, the conversation could lead to holiday activities the family can do together instead of focusing so much on gifts.

2. Talk about what you’re grateful for

If you want to introduce financial wellness to your family this Thanksgiving, Solomon suggests that, when it’s your turn to say what you’re grateful for, you respond, “I’m grateful for the ability to make choices.”

“The choices that you make will determine what you’re going to have in the future,” Solomon said. If you want to teach your kids to be careful with money, tell them how you do it.

“If somebody has $10,” she explained, “they can make the choice whether to buy a nutritious meal for their family, … do something fun by themselves … (or) give it away.” Tell your family how you make those choices and why.

3. Talk after you’ve shared a home video

If you’re looking to tackle more difficult financial subjects this holiday, Sun Group Wealth Partners advisor Winnie Sun suggests making a video with family pictures and videos to break the ice, according to The Wall Street Journal’s Tom Lauricella.

“While some are inclined to avoid subjects that are even remotely touchy, it’s actually an ideal time to tackle important planning decisions that can have a lasting, painful impact on the entire family if not handled well,” wrote Lauricella.

“It’s almost impossible to talk about anything in life without talking about money,” Sun told Lauricella. If grandparents want to share how they want their retirement years or even death to be handled, Sun suggested starting the evening with a home video. “We encourage them to share with their children and grandchildren their successes and failures.”

4. Talk about current events

If videos aren’t your thing, but you still want to broach a touchy financial subject with your family, Solomon suggests grounding the conversation in current events.

“Sometimes it is good to use these times (that everyone is together) to have the conversation and to introduce it by relating it to somebody that everybody can relate to,” said Solomon. “Some experience they’ve all had, someone that they know … (or) someone in the news."

Then you can approach the subject of something like a will — or a lack thereof — without it seeming like it came out of the blue.

Solomon suggests the topic: “What unexpected changes have we seen this year?” It might lead to a discussion about how one family member got a raise at work and how they plan to use their newfound wealth.

However, Solomon warns, “if there are already difficult relationships between family members, it probably is best not to bring up those conversations when the family comes together like that.” Some conversations are better left for the day after Thanksgiving, or far from the holidays altogether.

5. Talk about past disagreements

If you want to talk about money this Thanksgiving, but also want to try to remove the intense emotions from the equation, financial guru and creator of the “Family Money Talks” book Nathan Dungan suggests acknowledging past disagreements, according to The New York Times’ Ron Lieber.

“When have you argued as a family about whether or not to buy something?” is Dungan’s favorite question from his book.

If a family doesn’t have arguments, “it probably means (they’re) not talking about money or not talking about it enough,” he told Lieber.

Talking about financial fights after the fact, and managing to stop from engaging in them again, can help a family talk objectively about the situation, said Dungan.

Solomon said that she has seen positive outcomes when families use Thanksgiving to discuss money matters.

One family used her “Money Habitudes” cards during Thanksgiving to facilitate a conversation between the couple, their teenage children and the teenagers’ grandparents.

The kids were hurt that their grandparents didn’t buy them presents. The grandparents thought the teenagers’ cellphones were wasteful.

By the end of the conversation, the teenagers learned why the grandparents were frugal and that they had been putting away money for their college education; the grandparents learned why the teenagers felt they needed a way to call home.

“It really changed … the dynamics in that family,” Solomon explained.

Although she thinks discussing money during Thanksgiving can be a positive experience “if you stick to values,” Solomon said she doesn’t want to make a blanket judgment. Every family should weigh the options for themselves.