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Family finances: Time to open up?
The economic crisis is rewriting the rules of etiquette—people are now more willing to talk about money.
 

“Money used to be like religion or sex: It wasn’t talked about in polite company,” said Megan K. Scott in the Associated Press. But the economic crisis is rewriting the rules of etiquette, and Americans are commiserating about their mounting debt and shriveling portfolios. “I think it lessens the anxiety” to talk about it, says Micki LeSueur, a Chicago property owner who has blogged about her financial troubles. “It doesn’t feel so isolating.” Nearly everyone has been affected by the ill economy, even the very well off. The suddenness of the economic crisis and the wide media coverage dedicated to credit card debt and mortgage foreclosures seems to be encouraging previously reticent people into “coming out of the closet about their financial troubles.”

Such newfound openness couldn’t come at a better time for most families, said Dayana Yochim in TheMotleyfool.com. “I’m not advocating throwing manners out the drive-through deposit window.” But there is value, financially and psychologically, in confiding in close friends and loved ones about the difficult financial decisions you’re faced with. If you have children at home, make them privy to dollars-and-cents discussions. “Do your kids know what it costs to put a roof over their heads, and macaroni and cheese in their tummies?” Talk to them about the value of a dollar now, and they’ll have a better shot at being fiscally responsible adults.

Honesty is even more important—and more difficult—between parents and grown children, said Ron Lieber in The New York Times. Many parents inevitably will be called on to help their offspring through these tough times—and, likewise, many children will have to bail out their past-retirement parents. But too often, “grown children don’t know precisely how the devastation in the markets has affected their parents’ portfolio, and the older parents don’t know what their children’s monthly debt payments are.” Ask tactfully: Try putting your concerns in writing, and make clear that you aren’t questioning anyone’s judgment or trying to take control. Talking about steep investment losses or unwieldy mortgages will likely be uncomfortable. “Silence, however, is good for no one.”

 

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