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Small Ways to Have a Money Talk With Family and Friends


Talking about money can be tough. These conversations may also be harder now for those who aren’t able to see family and friends in person due to social-distancing restrictions.

Still, it can be done. Start small, realize you may need more than one conversation and know it may get easier in time.

“As with so many new ways of doing things we’ve come to accept since the pandemic began, it may feel awkward at first. It takes time to become comfortable with new ways of doing things, including talking about money,” said

Bobbi Rebell,

a personal-finance adviser at Splitit, an installment payment plan service.

Here are some small ways to talk about money amid a global pandemic and prolonged economic downturn.

Recognize the Wins

After such a difficult year for many, it may be tempting to focus on setbacks, but personal-finance authors say we are often better served by celebrating our wins.

“2020 rocked many of our financial lives, so the ‘wins’ might not be Instagram worthy. It’s not about ‘slaying my loans’ or ‘despite a layoff, we still paid off $15,000 in debt,’” said

Erin Lowry,

author of “Broke Millennial Talks Money: Scripts, Stories, and Advice to Navigate Awkward Financial Conversations.” “Those situations are intense outliers and frankly, just make all of us feel badly about ourselves,” Ms. Lowry said.

Instead, your “win” might be that you didn’t get into as much credit-card debt as you thought you would when your industry shut down in March or were honest with a friend about not being able to afford to swap holiday gifts, she said.

Can’t think of any? Ask your loved ones.

“Sometimes they have better memories of our bright spots than we do,” she said.

Spend 15 Minutes on Goals

Set aside time in January to discuss your financial goals for 2021 with your spouse or family, said

Grace Kvantas,

a financial planner in Raleigh, N.C. All you need is 15 minutes, she said.

“It can be daunting, so mix it in with other fun activities such as getting takeout from your favorite restaurant,” Ms. Kvantas said.

Should your goals feel unreasonable now compared with when you set them, especially if you have experienced job loss, then it’s time to rewrite them. It’s critical to reframe your mind-set and operate from your current reality instead of dwelling on the “what could’ve beens,” said Ms. Lowry of “Broke Millennial.”

Start with the goals that motivate you to save the most. For example, a post-pandemic trip can mean saving a little bit each month or using stockpiled credit-card points.

This may even help you build the habit of saving for travel into a monthly cash-flow plan and improve spending behavior in the future, said

Tyler Reeves,

a financial planner in Birmingham, Ala.

Show Your Child One Transaction

Ms. Rebell with Splitit says her 13-year-old son received a holiday check from his grandparents recently. After she made the deposit on her phone, she showed him the total amount in his savings account, which included his birthday and holiday gifts for the past 13 years.

Some of the money had been moved to an investment account, so she showed him that too.

“He was amazed at how the total amount had grown and will likely be more enthusiastic about adding to it,” said Ms. Rebell.

Start the Conversation With Your Parents

Starting a conversation with your elderly parents about money amid a pandemic when you may not be able to see them in person may be challenging.

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If your parents are technically savvy, a conversation might be done via video chat if you can’t be together. Use the pandemic as a conversation starter, said

Megan Kiesel,

a financial planner in Philadelphia.

For example, you could say, “I was reading an article the other day that said that people are avoiding long-term care facilities because of Covid-19. Mom, have you thought about what you would like to happen if you get sick?”

Given the pandemic, see that they have their health-care proxy in place.

Talk to Friends

Already taboo conversations around money can become even more sensitive with friends due to the disparate impacts of the pandemic.

While for some, 2020 may have been a year of record growth, for others, it may have been a year of total income loss. Keeping these things in mind can help inform your approach to any conversation, said personal-finance author

Stefanie O’Connell Rodriguez.

Focus on actions instead of outcomes. Instead of saying, “I’m hoping to ‘hit a million dollar net worth this year,’” for example, you could say, “I’m resolving to have regular money dates with my spouse.”

Supporting friends through feelings of sadness and anxiety goes a long way too. You can ask how you might help and suggest specific assistance such as an offer to stay at your home if you are willing, she said.

Write to Veronica Dagher at veronica.dagher@wsj.com

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