Festive fun and financials: talking about money at Christmas

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At a glance

  • Christmas – or any other occasion when loved ones are gathered together – can be a good time to have important conversations about your finances.
  • However, money is a frequent cause of family arguments at this time of year – so it’s essential to pick the right moment when everyone is in the best frame of mind.
  • Talking together about your future finances is an ongoing process. Follow up by speaking to a financial adviser, who can help guide those conversations so everybody can achieve the outcome they want.

For many, Christmas isn’t just about festive cheer, endless charades and falling asleep in front of Die Hard. Whether you actually celebrate Christmas or not, the holiday season can be an occasion when family comes together – possibly for the first time in a while.

And it’s often at these moments that we notice the passing of time – as children grow up and parents grow older – prompting us to think about some of the important issues that can go overlooked during the rest of the year. Issues such as whether your adult children might need help financially or what you’d like to happen if you’re no longer able to care for yourself.

We believe that having open and honest conversations about money with your family is a very important thing to do, so a festive occasion when everyone is gathered together and in good spirits can be the perfect time to do this.

However, feelings can sometimes run high, unresolved grievances can bubble to the surface – and money can be a prime catalyst for arguments. (Well, that and whose fault it is that lazy Uncle Brian has invited himself round again and won’t lift a finger to help.) Therefore, it’s generally a good idea to proceed with caution while keeping the tone of the conversations positive and constructive.

Here are some tips on how to do that, which we hope you’ll find useful.

Choose the right moment to talk about money as a family

It’s very important for families to speak openly about their finances and plan for their future. The best way to do that is to sit down together and have an honest and calm conversation, where everyone has their say and everyone’s opinion is taken into account.

Matters such as how and when money will be passed down the generations, or who’ll inherit Auntie Edna’s beach hut, need to be discussed – but sensibly and empathetically.

Picking the right moment is crucial. If anyone does bring up a tricky topic over the turkey, don’t ignore it or sweep it under the carpet. Equally, don’t get drawn into an argument about it – especially if anyone’s been overdoing the sherry.

Instead, acknowledge what they’re saying and gently suggest you talk about it when everyone’s in a more appropriate frame of mind.

Try to agree on your most important financial decisions

When it comes to fights about finances, often people aren’t arguing because of a shortage of money – it’s usually that they’re unable to agree on some of the important decisions they need to make as a family.

And arguments can get even worse if the situation is complex – perhaps in blended families or if you’re encountering a difficulty such as an elderly relative needing care.

A good way through this can be to find the things that you’re all able to agree on – such as some basic principles about fairness and wanting the best outcomes for everyone – rather than focusing on what divides you. You might be surprised by how much common ground you share.

Seek expert financial advice

Once you’ve initiated those family conversations, following up on the discussions is important, as financial planning is an ongoing process.

At this point, it’s always a good idea to seek advice from us. Of course, we’re not suggesting you ask us round for Christmas dinner (although an invitation is always nice!), but definitely speak to us as soon as you can after you’ve got the ball rolling.

We have a huge amount of experience in planning and managing family finances, and we can help take the emotion out of the situation if things start to boil over.

For example, by understanding everyone’s goals and examining your financial situation holistically, we can advise on the best ways to help you all get to where you want to be in the long term.

Choose gifts that keep on giving

Finally, here are some good presents that will encourage people in your family to think and talk about money in the right ways:

  • A piggy bank for children. Many experts believe that the sooner a child starts to learn the habit of saving and managing their own money, the better their financial decision-making will be when they’re older. 
  • Also for children, the book Save Your Acorns, by St. James’s Place’s former Director of Investments Rob Gardner, is a fun way to teach them about the benefits of saving and investing wisely.
  • For adults, The Intelligent Fund Investor, by SJP’s Director of Investment Research Joe Wiggins, is great for building a deeper understanding of the best methods for working towards your long-term financial goals.
  • And for anyone of any age, paying into a Stocks and Shares ISA (or a Junior ISA for under-18s) is a tax-efficient way to invest in their future – and can help make the Christmases still to come even better..

The value of an investment with St. James’s Place will be directly linked to the performance of the funds you select and the value can therefore go down as well as up. You may get back less than you invested.

The levels and bases of taxation, and reliefs from taxation, can change at any time and are generally dependent on individual circumstances.

Please note that St. James’s Place does not offer Cash ISAs.

SJP Approved 18/12/2023

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