What image does a “family meeting” conjure up for you? Do you think of your childhood when your parents would ominously announce, “It’s time for a family meeting!” or maybe it’s your spouse asking, “Does this incident warrant a family meeting?”
In our home, one form of a family meeting occurred when my husband and I had casual discussions with our three kids over dinner when we would say something along the lines of, “We have something important to talk about.” I recently asked our young adult children their recollection of these conversations and they said that when we met in the living room then they knew we were going to talk about something really important. Regardless of the topic, family meetings in one form or another are a method of communication for loved ones to connect, share important information, and often have a relevant ensuing conversation.
At CCM, we see family meetings as a wonderful opportunity to listen to and dialogue about a family’s wealth and its purpose. We encourage these meetings so that our clients have an opportunity to communicate with their loved ones about what is important to them regarding their wealth—opening up some key lines of conversation that can reap benefits for many years to come.
As you consider if a family meeting is a good option for your family, following are some insights as to how we prepare for one and the types of topics that are covered:
- One key step in having a successful meeting is preparation. We work with clients on the front end to determine the goals and the purpose of the meeting. To that end, we encourage clients to complete a pre-meeting questionnaire that helps establish a meeting agenda and sets parameters and expectations for the meeting. This is where you determine who should attend, and what level of financial and estate-related details should be shared.
- While we are fans of living rooms, we actually do find that holding the meeting at our office provides a professional and neutral environment for family meetings, ideally with all attendees physically present. We also find it works best when your CCM advisor is the host and facilitator. This way all family members are “around the table” and equal participation is encouraged.
- We’ve hosted a number of family meetings on a variety of topics that go far beyond the dollars and cents. The subject matter can be as broad as sharing family values around money or the ultimate plan for distribution of assets, to topics as specific as plans for the family cabin or funding grandchildren’s educations. Meetings apply to all types of families as well. For example, we’ve recently worked with blended families with adult children to talk about issues specific to both families coming together into one financial equation.
- Often times, the purpose of a family meeting is to share our clients’ estate plan with their children. This topic can provide family members peace of mind; for parents, because they know that they’ve informed their loved ones of their intentions, and for children who are reassured that there is a plan in place. CCM’s President, Justin Stets will sometimes say to clients, “We’re going to eventually have this meeting with your children. Wouldn’t you just as soon be present?”
- In one recent family meeting, we met when the clients’ son from out of town was visiting. The primary purpose of that meeting was for a discussion about our clients’ charitable intent so that their two children could learn and ask questions. Our clients found that not only did the conversation inform their kids about their desires, it also allowed for a powerful conversation about how the kids would work together to make sure the parents’ legacy was carried out.
What are your “living room” conversations you would like to have with your loved ones? No matter which topics you choose to focus on, the intention of a family meeting is the same; to provide a forum for healthy, constructive dialogue between generations about your financial situation and what is important to you.
We welcome the opportunity to assist you in planning and hosting a meeting with your family. From our perspective, it’s a really important conversation to have.
This post was written by a member of the CCM Women’s Initiative, which strives to promote the financial empowerment of women. For more information about our Initiative, please contact Callie Geist, CFP®, J.D., MBA, Integrated Wealth Advisor.