Family Finances: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

I was raised in an environment where finances were not discussed other than being reminded to shut off the lights, don’t waste water, the importance of disciplined savings and investing, and to avoid the slippery slope of credit. Personal family finances were a topic to be discussed only between Mother and Dad. When Dad died at age 82, very little information was shared. Mother assured us she had sufficient funds to comfortably live out her years, and we were good with that. She lived to be 95 and only in her very last years did she share minimal information with her kids.

Granted, when I was still living at home my parents knew how much I earned at part-time jobs, the cost of my first car, how much I had saved for college, etc. After getting married, I rarely shared personal financial information with them and they certainly would never have asked about our salaries, rent, or how much we paid for a house, car, cruise, or major appliance. The “don’t ask, don’t tell” financial philosophy was still very much alive in our family.

It amazes me when my peers are so knowledgeable about their adult children’s finances, especially if they are married. They know their kid’s annual income, the amount of their bonus or recent raise, the size of their mortgage and car payments, and how much life insurance they carry. This “tell all” concept is foreign to me.

I’m grateful we have two adult children, along with their spouses, who are well educated and financially responsible with good jobs. I don’t know their salaries, housing costs, if they have a car payment or not, their investments, or what their savings plan is. Again, in our family we discuss personal finances only with our spouse. I’m not sure if this approach is right or wrong, but it’s the way it is.

As we age, Jo Anne and I believe it’s important to begin sharing more financial information with our kids than my parents did. We’ve given our kids a list that includes names of our attorney, financial institutions, advisors, and brokers and believe that is adequate for now. More information will be shared later. When it comes to sharing personal financial information with our kids, I’m trying to modify the chip off the ol’ block.

When should you share information about your finances with family members?