Initiating the Conversation

Personal Finance March 22, 2008 Print Friendly and PDF

"The conversation is the important piece. The piece of paper reflects simply in concrete ways what the conversation is. So you have to be able to talk about these things before you can write them down on paper." - Tom, manager of chaplaincy services

There are as many good ways to begin this discussion as there are families and family members. Some families are in the habit of being very direct, and that works for them. Others begin the conversation piecemeal, over a period of time. It can be helpful to use a current news story about end-of-life issues as a starting point: what would you have wanted if you had been Terri Schiavo, for example? It can be equally helpful to tag the topic of advance directives to a conversation about family financial planning. Another promising opening is to engage in a free-flowing discussion about what family members consider essential to enjoying meaningful, satisfying lives.

Read on, or click on the video buttons below for discussion strategies.

Oh, by the way: slipping it into another discussion
Mari, community development specialist

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Mari -- Oh, by the way: slipping it into another discussion


Mari, community development specialist
Mari, community development specialist

Transcript: "My parents, I see them four or five times a week, so we're very, very close. We talk about all sorts of things, you know, family, investments, buying homes, interest rates, and so it kind of got worked into one of those discussions, when we were just talking about our life and planning and my parents asking about how much are you putting into your 401K and stuff, and, oh, by the way, this is a part of planning for life and so this is what I've done."


Acknowledge the difficulty
Mamie, college social work professor

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Mamie -- Acknowledge the difficulty


Mamie, college social work professor
Mamie, college social work professor

Transcript: "If I sense that people are already uptight and angry, I talk about, gee, this is hard. I try to face with them what appears to be their feeling or the kind of behavior that they're showing and acknowledge that with them. You don't get into the business until you get that done because if the people are not wanting to talk or they appear to be angry or they're upset or silent, it is important to acknowledge the difficulty this can be for them and then you move later."


What brings your life joy and delight?
Tom, manager of chaplaincy services

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Tom -- What brings your life joy and delight?


Tom, manager of chaplaincy services
Tom, manager of chaplaincy services

Transcript: "In some ways, for many of us, the way we live will be reflected in the way we die. So, I think in some ways, rather than trying to have this weighty decision about what are we going to do at the end of life, an easier inroad into that would be let's talk about life now. What is it that gives meaning and purpose to our lives, to your life? What is it that brings you joy and delight? What would have to change for that delight and that meaning and purpose to change?"


It can't be just a "business thing"
Mamie, college social work professor

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Mamie -- It can't be just a "business thing"


Mamie, college social work professor
Mamie, college social work professor

Transcript: "I think it's important for parents as well as adult children to express their care and love for each other. If parents or children feel that this is just a business thing-- That's why I think it's important if your parents do not live in the same community or even if they do live in the community, people need to be visiting, they need to have continual involvement so the parents really feel that their children do care about them, and vice versa. I work with adult children as well who really feel that, well, my dad was never there and they really don't care about me. I think that without that exchange among people the trust factor pops up again and I think you can continue discussions when people really believe that it's done because you love me, because you really care about me, because you really want to help me, and you're concerned about me. Many people miss that, they miss it so often."