Having a Family Get Together? Be Cautious on Dinner Conversations

It’s a good idea to avoid those discussions about money.

It is usually a wonderful event when you gather the family for Thanksgiving or holiday dinner with various personalities and interests. However, it is wise to avoid certain discussion topics, according to U.S. News & World Report in “How to Handle Financial Conversations at the Thanksgiving Table.”

It’s not always easy when you’re gathering with cousins, uncles, aunts, sisters, brothers, in-laws, nephews, nieces and grandchildren. You want to share your good news about work, fun new purchases, vacations and other things that by their nature send a clear signal of a happy financial picture. However, if others are not enjoying such good fortune, you may be creating an uncomfortable, even hurtful, atmosphere.

Downplay your wealth or achievements. No one is saying you should not be proud of your accomplishments, but you may be seen as a selfish braggart. What if your relatives decide to ask for a loan? Do more listening than talking and keep your descriptions modest.

Don’t talk about your expensive toys. The family probably knows who at the table has a second home, the one luxury car that’s parked in the driveway and the designer clothes and handbags. If your shopping list includes a trip to Tiffany’s and everyone else is going to Walmart, tone it down.

If someone’s open about their struggles, be a good listener. Maybe you’ve heard the same story from cousin Bob for the last 20 years, or maybe Jill’s facing foreclosure due to a health crisis. They are sharing their stories and are probably not looking for the most successful person in the room to give them advice in front of a crowd. A sympathetic ear is more helpful. If you do want to help, have a conversation privately, away from the table or after Thanksgiving.

Say no to loans or business for family members at the holiday table. Be firm, be polite but decline. Explain that you want to keep the focus on the family. If there’s something of interest, you can speak about it another time.

Don’t do your family estate planning meeting at Thanksgiving. This is a very important meeting and it’s one you should have more than once every 10 years—every year is ideal—but not around the Thanksgiving table. Agree that this is something that needs to be done and set a date, if that works for your family. However, let everyone enjoy each other’s company on Thanksgiving.

Reference: U.S. News & World Report (Oct. 30, 2018) “How to Handle Financial Conversations at the Thanksgiving Table.”