Financial Independence Week: Talking With Parents About Money

Earlier today, I discussed methods for parents of young adults to talk to their children about money. Now, I’m going to tackle the opposite direction: how can a young adult (a college student or a young professional) discuss financial matters with their parents?

Many college students dread talking to their parents, mostly because they believe they’ll be perceived as failures and let their parents down. Thus, when a major talk comes, they go in with a combative attitude and things don’t go very smoothly at all. It’s a scenario I’ve seen repeat itself time and time again, and it’s one that is easily avoidable.

Here are several things that you can focus on in order to make a financial discussion with your parents go much easier.

Don’t be angry. Quite often, parents will make statements and suggestions that provoke a sense of anger in the child, even if that’s not their intention. If you find yourself getting angry during this talk, look like you’re thinking, count to ten, and then ask yourself why exactly you got angry. Usually, it’s defensiveness, so ask yourself what you’re defending and why. In many cases, you’re defending a paper castle, something that you’d be better off revealing than hiding.

If their attitude makes you uncomfortable, ask questions. If they appear superior and condescending, ask them calmly if they’ve ever been in an awkward money situation before and how they dealt with it. Ask them how they would deal with your situation given that the past can’t be changed. Do it calmly and rationally above all, because anger is the one element that will cause this conversation to collapse.

Be completely open. If you are hiding things, you will only make things worse. Your life doesn’t have to be an open book, but if something is relevant to the topic, be open about it rather than hiding it. Not only will this answer more of your questions, it will encourage your parents to be more open as well.

Don’t be combative. Don’t enter into a financial conversation perceiving it to be a war, with ground gained and lost. Instead, look at it as a situation to personally improve yourself. The only way people win in conversation is if they gain a greater understanding of the issues discussed, not if they “win” or “lose.” Thus, quite often there’s nothing to argue or feel resentment about.

Ask lots of questions. The most valuable thing you can gain from a conversation is a resolution to the questions inside of you, so ask every question that comes to mind. Not only will you receive answers, giving others the chance to talk and say what’s on their mind will make them more calm and collected as well.

Trent Hamm
Trent Hamm
Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.

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