Is It Okay To Talk About Money at the Thanksgiving Table?

Happy extended family celebrating Thanksgiving and having traditional meal at dining table.
Drazen Zigic / Getty Images/iStockphoto

A lot of things might come up in conversation at the Thanksgiving dinner table, like critiquing the way Aunt Linda makes her corn casserole, or taking bets on who’s going to win the football game that’s playing in the background — or maybe even grilling cousin Sue’s suspicious new boyfriend. But if the topic of money comes up, there’s no reason to be too upset.

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While we’ve often been told that there are three things you do not discuss at holiday gatherings — religion, politics and money — that tide is starting to turn… well, at least when it comes to money.

In fact, experts say family gatherings are a great time to bring up financial items while everyone is together and can support each other. Such conversations can help determine solutions for anyone experiencing hardship and provides the opportunity to discuss a family member’s wishes, such as regards a will or estate. Or, some small talk hinging around how everyone is combating inflation this year could be in order.

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“Having conversations about family finances — even just light discussions about hopes, wishes and expectations — can make a huge impact,” MarketWatch indicated. “Adult children may not know their parents expect them to take over caregiving responsibilities when they’re older, for example. Family members may also feel embarrassed to mention a money problem they’re facing, and could miss out on helpful suggestions loved ones have to offer — such as resources to look into or a financial adviser to consult.”

As Wisconsin-based financial planning firm Drake & Associates’ Tony Drake told CBS 58 News this week, “It’s really important to have these conversations. They can be difficult. But if you wait ’til someone is in a health emergency, financial situation, it’s really too late and that can be really costly.”

And Thanksgiving can be a calm and collected environment to bring up some tough conversations. As Drake added, “More and more families are getting back together in person so this can be a great opportunity to really have those discussions, open the door and start talking about some of these topics.”

Financial Conversations Worth Having During Thanksgiving

Here are some of the topics you might want to bring up today:

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Estate planning: “The last couple years really forced us all to take a closer look at our health and we really need to have our family’s updated wills and estate plans — or maybe make one for the first time. You don’t need to be wealthy to have a plan… it’s really important,” said Drake. He added that, when a plan is created (or if one exists already), it’s also key to know the big details — such as the attending attorney and what documents are already prepared. Parents can also have the chance to ask for their adult childrens’ opinions.

Retirement: The pandemic forced a lot of Americans to look at their finances, and that look should ideally include retirement plans, per Drake. “If your parents were nearing retirement or unexpectedly found themselves out of work sooner than they hoped, take a look at it and see if their retirement data has changed… what is their ideal retirement?” Drake suggested being sure to remember considering Social Security, pensions and any debts when discussing retirement.

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Long-term care: Nursing homes can cost $8,000 or more every month, according to Drake, so knowing the plan for loved ones’ care as they get older is very important. “Even when the family takes care of folks, it’s very expensive. So dealing with that long-term care, whether it’s through insurance or alternative solutions… is something that really needs to be talked about.”

Make Sure the Time Is Right for Serious Conversation (Don’t Push It)

There’s some key ways to approach difficult conversations, too — like maybe not when dad is stressed in the kitchen wondering why the turkey isn’t cooking through correctly. “Make sure the time is right, calm and it’s a comfortable situation,” Drake advised, indicating that being transparent and direct is key. Maybe even make a checklist (if you think you might get emotional, particularly) so you can stay on track. “There’s no judgment, it’s all in the spirit of getting financial issues on the table.”

MarketWatch put forward another suggestion: Bring up some financial resources first as an icebreaker. “Relatives already working with a financial adviser may want to recommend that professional to their loved ones while chatting over the Thanksgiving turkey, or show their fellow holiday gatherers the latest apps and websites they’ve been using to manage their money.”

Take Our Poll: How Has Inflation Impacted Your Holiday Shopping Plans?
More: This is How Much More Thanksgiving Dinner Will Cost This Year Thanks to Inflation

Keep in mind — it may take more than the one meeting over Thanksgiving to discuss these family matters, though Christmas is right around the corner.

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About the Author

Selena Fragassi joined GOBankingRates.com in 2022, adding to her 15 years in journalism with bylines in Spin, Paste, Nylon, Popmatters, The A.V. Club, Loudwire, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Magazine and others. She currently resides in Chicago with her rescue pets and is working on a debut historical fiction novel about WWII. She holds a degree in fiction writing from Columbia College Chicago.
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