Your wealth story: Harness the power of your mindset to increase financial well-being

Getty Images 672161313

Whether you are aware of it or not, your money story impacts your financial decision-making, habits, and well-being. You can change your relationship with money by understanding your unique history and determining what story you want to write in the future. In this webinar, learn how to uncover family money messages, change unhealthy mindsets, and talk more openly about money across generations.

The speakers discussed:

  • The power of your unconscious thoughts in your financial life.
  • A simple tool for identifying family money messages passed down across generations.
  • How to shift sabotaging beliefs and change unwanted money habits.
  • Tips for starting meaningful wealth conversations.


  • Kathleen Kenealy, CFP®, CPWA®, Managing Director, Director of Financial Planning, SVB Private.
  • Kathleen Burns Kingsbury, Wealth Psychology Expert, Author and Founder, KBK Wealth Connection.

How financially savvy are you and your partner?

When it comes to family finances, effective communication is critical for a healthy relationship. Sadly, money conflicts have led to a significant number of divorces among couples in the U.S. If you and your spouse have trouble discussing money, taking the couples and money quiz and following a few straightforward steps can help you avoid financial conflicts and strengthen your relationship.

Download Quiz

Audio transcription

Kathleen Kenealy: Hello, everyone. Thank you for joining us. My name is Kathleen Kenealy. I'm the director of financial planning here at Boston Private. I would like to welcome you today. I'm excited for our discussion about how your money story impacts your financial decision-making, your habits, and your wellbeing. I'd like to welcome and thank Kathleen Burns Kingsbury for joining us today. Kathleen is a wealth psychology expert, author, and founder of KBK Wealth Connection.

Her mission is to empower women, couples and families, and the advisors who serve them to shatter money taboos and communicate more effectively about financial matters. As an expert on financial psychology, Kathleen has appeared on television and written for consumer and trade publications. During our conversations today, we will cover a variety of interesting topics. We will talk about the power of your unconscious thoughts in your financial life. We will show you a simple tool for identifying family money messages passed down across generations. We will discuss how to shift sabotaging beliefs and change unwanted money habits. And you will earn some tips for starting meaningful conversations about wealth.

We're happy to take any questions you have, feel free to submit them throughout our discussion today and we will answer them during our Q&A at the end. To ask a question during today's call, simply click on the Q&A feature on the right side of your screen and type in your question. Now I'll turn it over to Kathleen to kick off our conversation. Kathleen.

Kathleen Burns Kingsbury: Thank you very much, Kathleen. There's a lot of Kathleens to go around today.

Kathleen Burns Kingsbury: I'm really excited to be here and to talk to you about your wealth story or your money story. And as Kathleen said, there's a lot to get to. So let's just get started with a quote. The quote is, "The longest-running relationship in your life is your relationship with money." So what does that mean? That means that we often start our relationship with money, even when we are just a little glimmer in our parents' eyes. When we are in the womb, our parents are probably talking about money, "How we're going to be able to afford this child? You know, what type of education are we going to want?" All sorts of things.

And then throughout our whole life, every day, whether we enjoy it or not, we are managing our finances. And then ultimately when we pass, there's still more people in our family, our loved ones who are talking about how to transfer our wealth. We have such a long relationship with money. However, we don't talk about it very much and we don't focus much on our financial wellbeing. And that's because we live unfortunately in a culture of money shame.

The culture of money shame (2:45)

This money shame really impacts us all in terms of all generations and all genders. And when I'm talking about money shame, what I'm talking about is not, "Oops, I made a mistake." But more, "Oh, I messed up financially, but I feel bad about myself. Like I'm a bad person for making a financial mistake." And so I'm going to share with you a couple of statistics just to show you how it hits different generations and genders. The first is 74% of Gen Xers and Boomers feel embarrassed or regret having made a financial mistake. And so how is this money shame?

Well, if you're embarrassed that you made a mistake, chances are, you're not going to share that with somebody, even your financial advisor, and you're going to not learn from that mistake. And so that speaks to the fact that many of us feel like we should be perfect about money. And if we're not perfect, we should be quiet about money. And often when I'm presenting live and in person, somebody will say, "Well, what about millennials?"

Well, unfortunately, millennials experience this money shame as well. Eighty-four percent of millennials don't feel comfortable sharing restaurant expenses with their advisors. Why? Well, we can guess that some of the advisors are of a different generation and the millennials feel judged for how they are using their money to express their values. And when it comes to money shame in general, often it's an equal opportunity problem. However, when you look at women as a subset, you will find that 61% of women would rather talk about their own death than talk about finances.

So why is this a problem? And how does this impact your financial wellbeing? Well, it results in us living in this world full of money silence. And what money silence is, you know, that uncomfortable feeling that many of us get when we're engaged in financial conversations. And it's not just financial conversations about the numbers, it could be about the numbers but it's often those financial conversations that maybe we avoid, or we just don't know how to have because they deal with the emotional side of money.

Or, you know, thoughts and beliefs about the relationship between money and love, respect, control, and our fear of engaging in these conversations. And so one of the things I decided to do in 2017 was I decided to start a very small but powerful revolution called "The Breaking Money Silence Revolution." And my goal is to help audience members like you decide that they don't want to live in this culture of money shame anymore. And they want to learn how to talk openly and honestly about money.

And this directly impacts your ability to be financially sound and it affects your financial wellbeing. And in a minute we'll talk about financial wellbeing. But before we do, let's just talk about at a high level, what's the price of money silence to you and to our society?

Price of money silence (5:50)

Forty-four percent of adults would rather keep a money secret from their partner than engage in a conflict about money. And so what this means is romantic partners are sharing about so many things in their lives but really struggle to talk about certain aspects of their financial lives so much so that they'll keep a secret.

And while this isn't the only reason for divorce, when we look at divorce in general, we look at contributing factors. What we find is that financial conflict is often one of those factors. And I believe that's a high price that couples pay. When you look at families, you'll find that two-thirds of affluent Americans have not talked to their children or never will talk to their children about their will or their estate plan. Now, this may include you, maybe not the never but that you haven't talked about the state plan with the next generation yet.

The price of that is ultimately what ends up happening is that the next generation isn't prepared to receive the wealth. And so, well, we can appreciate why people are silent about it. You probably didn't have a roadmap on how to talk about money from your parents, so you don't know how to do it with the next generation. It does cause families to fail to successfully pass down wealth. So 60% of families don't successfully transfer wealth across generations. And this is due not to the technical aspects of finance and the legal aspects but to the communication in the family.

If we look at the high price individually, as a couple, as families, and in our society, we're paying, I think it's too high. So part of what we need to do is think about how we can change our relationship with money and there's hope for the future. And this part is exciting. I'm actually, instead of giving you this statistic, I'm going to launch a poll that asks a question of you. This is our first poll and there'll be a couple of different interaction points throughout this webinar to keep you engaged and keep us thinking and communicating in this virtual world.

I want you to think about what your answer would be. What's the percentage of millennials that think talking about money would be healthy for our society? And as you can see, the poll just launched up on the screen. So just pick, do you think it's 23% of millennials, 56% of millennials, or 71% of millennials? And we'll give it a couple of seconds for you to type in your responses. I see them coming in right now, which is exciting. And then I will share the results. So, we'll just give it a couple of more seconds? Okay.

Kathleen Burns Kingsbury: 71% of millennials agree that society would be healthier if they could discuss personal finance. And the breakdown that we had in this poll was that 24% of you had the right answer, 41% thought it was the middle of the road, and 35% thought it was 23%.

Well, the good news is that a large majority of the next generation and the generation after thinking that engaging in money conversations is healthy and think that it's worth spending time and energy on your financial wellness. So, what I'd like to do now is just switch gears a bit and have you look at what financial wellbeing is, and what's the health and wealth connection. We just talked about money silence and money silence is part of what adds up into your financial wellbeing, but it's not the only part.

What is financial wellbeing? (10:15)

When we think about financial wellbeing, let me define it so you get a sense of what that is. And I also want you just to think about how you would define that yourself. But for me today, when I'm talking about financial wellbeing, what I'm talking about is the health and wealth connection. So financial wellbeing means that you can take care of your financial obligations, not just today, but in the future. So that's the technical, the financial part, but it also involves feeling secure in your relationship with money.

It involves feeling joy, feeling confident, maybe not all the time but fairly confident in making decisions about your financial future. And it includes being able to engage in wealth conversations, so financial wellbeing is a pretty holistic term. Instead of thinking about wealth just in terms of the numbers, or in terms of assets, we're thinking about it holistically. And why, because there's a direct link between our health and our wealth, not just in terms of our numbers.

Because at a certain point, if you have a certain level of net worth, you know, then we're all on an even playing field. But what ends up happening is that if you feel financially stressed, then it's going to impact your health, your physical wellbeing, and your emotional wellbeing. Let's just look at this pandemic that we've been going through and then, unfortunately, we're still in. The stress of that pandemic has made many of us physically not feel well, financially feel stressed out, and ultimately has affected our financial wellbeing. But the good news is it's also got us talking about money.

Now that you have a sense of what financial wellbeing is, let's talk about how the stories that you tell yourself impact your financial wellbeing. We often talk about the technical skills and advisors are great at this. Boston Private is great at this but let's look at the emotional side of money. Because the stories you tell yourself about your money, about the purpose of wealth, about how you want to live those values impact your financial behaviors.

In other words, in the world of money psychology, or financial psychology, there's something called your money story. And it's like a book that's full of all different pieces of information and thoughts and beliefs and ideas you have about the different aspects of managing money. Your money story is made up of all these thoughts and beliefs and attitudes. And the part that we don't realize is that our money story is often living in our unconscious mind.

For some of you who signed up, you may know about money stories. But other people who are attending today, you might be like, "I've never heard of a money story before." Well, money stories start to form when we're kids. So, between the ages of 5 and 15, we start to develop thoughts and beliefs about money, wealth, the purpose of money in our life, what it means to save, spend gift and invest. And how do we do this as kids? We typically do this by observing caregivers' behaviors, mentors, teachers, adults, and we observe things in our society.

It may be immediate influences, messages in music, and we develop without even realizing it a group of thoughts of beliefs that add up to be our money story that impacts our behaviors. And often when we are stuck, not able to change something around our relationship with money or change a financial habit, it's because there's parts of our money story that may no longer work for us. There's great power in identifying your money story and being able to decide what parts do I want to keep? Maybe chapter one through three are great, but maybe the chapter on investing, I want to rewrite and do it differently in the future.

That’s what we're going to talk about today- that the stories that you tell yourself impact your thoughts and beliefs, which ultimately impact your behaviors. So let's drill down a little bit more. Anybody who has ever studied cognitive behavioral therapy, or maybe experienced that themselves might notice or remember this triangle. So basically, what this triangle shows is the relationship between thoughts and beliefs. It’s the stories we tell ourselves, our money story, and our emotions and our behaviors.

As you look at this chart, you will see that the relationship is circular but it goes all different ways. It goes both ways. So, if you were to identify what your story is and what you tell yourself about money, you would then be able to identify your emotions and maybe identify your behaviors. What does that mean in real life? That means in order to shift your behaviors, you need to identify those thoughts and beliefs to then say, "How can I do something differently?"

Let me give you a real concrete example because I understand this can get a little academic. If you were raised in a family where you saw your parents fight and they fought about money a lot, and they ultimately got divorced. Without realizing it, you might have part of your money story that says when couples discuss money, they fight and it's a bad thing. And it's going to be simple because remember many of our money stories were developed when we were kids, so it’s often oversimplified.

Now flash forward into your adulthood. You're in a romantic relationship, a financial conflict comes up and what ends up happening? That thought, which may be in the back of your head, it may be in your unconscious thought, or it may be conscious, says, "Uh-oh, we better not engage in this financial conversation. We're going to fight and that's a bad thing." You end up feeling anxious and uncomfortable. And what's the behavior you engage in? Chances are you say, "I'm not going to have that financial conversation with my partner. It's not worth it."

But what if you grew up in a family where your parents did talk about money, did resolve financial conflicts and you saw it as a good thing. Well, you'd be in the same situation as an adult, you'd be engaged in a conversation with a romantic partner that potentially could be conflictual. And your thought would be, "You know what, when couples work through conflict, they feel closer." Again, this may or may not be a conscious thought but it's somewhere in your mind. That leads you to maybe anticipate the conversation, but also feel like, "We're going to get through this." And you feel confident about it.

The outcome is you engage in a financial conversation with your partner that over time gets resolved. Your stories, the stories you tell yourself really impact your financial behaviors and habits. What's great about that is that means you can change your stories in order to change your financial wellbeing, your level of comfort around money, and your actual financial behaviors. Now here's the part that's a little tricky. That in order to retrain your brain, it takes time, and it takes energy.

Re-training your brain (17:38)

We used to think that if you developed your money mindset and your money story, that it was kind of set-in stone, that we couldn't change our thoughts that much. That these habits were ingrained. But the truth of the matter is that our brains have a certain level of plasticity. And what that means is that we can change our neuropathways. We can change what our brain says to the rest of us, and we can change our emotions and we can change our behaviors.

But retraining your brain takes time. It takes energy, and it often takes someone to be your guide. A quick analogy that might help you understand how retraining your brain takes time, and if you were to shift your money story it might take time to start to engage in the new behavior or feel more comfortable with money is, think about a commute to work, kind of ironic because some of us are still working at home in the pandemic. But if you think about a commute to work.

I used to live in Boston. I would jump on the interstate and I would drive to work in 25 minutes. And I did that for 10 years. So, if you think about your commute, you do it for 10 years, you jump on the interstate and what do you do? You probably could do that commute in your sleep. Your conscious but you just know what your reactions are going to be, where it gets traffic, and you know you’ll get to work in about the same amount of time - you know how to do this.

But what if I told you, "You know what, this week you have to commute but you can't use the interstate. You have to use a back road, that's a dirt road. And you've got to get to the same place." What's going to happen for you? It's going to be a new route. It's going to be a new behavior. You're going to probably have to look at your GPS and decide, "What route is this going? Can I take..."

You're going to have to think about consciously what turns, "When my turn is coming up," and my guess, you would have to do this for several times before this back road commute felt as smooth and as fast as the superhighway.

That is what is involved in retraining your brain. That it takes time to slow it down, to then come up with a different route, a different way to react, and then to ingrain that in our pathways, in our brain. So change is possible. It just takes time and energy and support. And that's often where financial professionals can come in and be quite helpful in terms of that support when you're trying to do something different around money.

Tactics to improve your wellbeing (20:18)

Now that we've talked a little bit about the culture of money shame and how not talking about money isn't good for your financial well-being. And that financial wellbeing is really influenced by the stories that you tell yourself. Let's specifically talk about tactics you can use to improve your financial wellbeing. And today I'm going to offer you three. The first is uncovering your money story. Now we've already talked about what a money story is.

I'm going to give you some tools and we're going to use one to help you see how this can not only be useful in improving your relationship with money and your financial wellbeing, it also believe it or not can be fun. The next thing we're going to look at is being able to identify your money talk mindset. Your money talk mindset is a subset of your money story. It's all the thoughts and beliefs you have about engaging in a wealth conversation.

I'm going to give you an experience where you can actually start to understand parts of your money story and start that process here today at the event. And lastly, I will talk with you about how to start a money conversation or a wealth conversation with either the next generation, with your partner, or with an aging parent, because we want to put these tools into practice. So let's start with uncovering your money story.

We already talked about what a money story is. It's the collection of your thoughts and beliefs and attitudes about money, and it impacts your savings, spending gifting, and investing every day, whether you're aware of it or not. And so how do you uncover what your story says to you? Well, one simple method is called turning up the volume. And turning up the volume is something that I use with my coaching clients. And really all that means is that you tap into that self-talk you have in your head every day about all sorts of things, but you turn up the volume specifically on the self-talk around money.

If you were to pick tomorrow, you'd wake up and every time there was a financial transaction, you thought about money, you exchanged money, you made financial decisions, you had a conversation about money, you would just notice, "What are the automatic thoughts and beliefs I have?" And you would jot them down. Those are the beginning of identifying your money story, those thoughts- it's a very simple way to do it.

Then there's also an exercise that I used to do a lot in workshops, and I've done it with people who are counselors all the way to, I'll never forget doing it with a partner downtown Boston of a law firm. We wrote letters to money. If you are a journal-oriented person, you like to journal, you're going to love this. If you don't like to journal, you might not want to use this tactic. But basically, writing a letter to money means that you write on a piece of paper, dear money, and you write a letter to money as if it was a person. And you just get all your thoughts down.

What would you say to money? And you just write as long as you can. It could be 10 seconds. It could be three hours. Often, it's a couple of minutes the first time you try. And so, you write this letter to money, and what ends up happening is on a piece of paper, you have the thoughts and beliefs you have about money and a start of a dialogue and a start of uncovering your money story. And one of the things that I do for people that really like this exercise is once they write a letter to money, I encourage them to write the letter back to them from money.

You'd write dear money, and then you'd write for 5, 10 minutes, and then you have money respond. And for me, it would be, dear Kathleen, and money response. Now, I understand that may seem a little abstract to you. If you give it a try, trust me, it's really interesting. If you want more information about turning up the volume or writing a letter to money, you can check out my workbook called "Creating Wealth from The Inside Out." It shows you how to do those two exercises, or you can just let Boston Private know, and they can get the information to me and I can send off what you need.

The last way to uncover your money story is the way we're going to dive down in a little bit today, which is completing a Family Money-O-Gram. And a Family Money-O-Gram is simply a family tree. And the difference between a family tree and a Family Money-O-Gram is that a family tree traces bloodlines, and relationships across generations. And a Family Money-O-Gram traces family money messages across generations because part of your money story is made up of things that your parents, your grandparents, and influential people said about money and the behaviors that they engaged in.

Now, one thing I want to say about the diagram that is on the screen right now, this is a very oversimplified of Family Money-O-Gram. You know, you may be in a family where it's blended. You may be in a family where there's lots of kids and lots of generations. There's many, many ways to draw out your family tree. We don't have time for that today but if you're interested in doing that type of work, you may want to check in with your financial professional to see if you could do that together because it can be really, really useful.

Instead of taking the time to do that today together, what I'm going to do is talk to you about a client that I worked with, Gwen, and how we used the money genogram to help her shift an unhealthy money script or a money story to change a financial behavior. So, Gwen, not her real name, was referred to me by her financial advisor because Gwen had really wanted to save more money for her kids' college education. And she kept trying to do it but something getting in the way. And that was her spending.

Now, I wouldn't say she was a compulsive spender, but she would spend money on the way home from work when she was stressed out. And then by the end of the month, she wouldn't have the money that she wanted to invest in her teenagers', you know, college fund. She wouldn't be able to invest that money. And they tried all sorts of strategies for financial advisor in her, but she felt stuck. So Gwen, 48-year-old divorced woman, was an attorney.

She had a very high-power job. She was trying to raise these two kids alone and they were teenagers, and she was feeling really, really guilty. And when I started to see Gwen, what she said to me, that quote, "I'm a terrible mother. If I was a better mother, I could save for my kids." And I said, "You know what?" I said, "Before we decide if you're a terrible mother, which I suspect you are not, let's take a look at your money story and see if there's anything there that will give you insight into why you're so stuck saving money and seem to perpetuate this spending money that you don't really want to do anymore."

I sent her home with a chart, her Family Money-O-Gram, and I had her fill it in. And what you're going to see here on the screen right now is her completed Money-O-Gram. And so basically the way this is done is you label people's names, their occupation, and to keep it really simple, you list off what is one part of their money story. What's one thought or belief that, you know, this person had, or you could guess this person had. For example, her maternal grandfather, Alan, was a salesman. And he had the idea or the money belief that you work hard and you play hard.

She did this as a homework assignment and filled it all in. And what we discovered is in red. Is that what you're looking for in a Money-O-Gram is you're looking for trends. Might be occupational trends. It could be family money message trends, but there was a clear trend in her family that she was not consciously aware of. So, it seems really obvious as we look here at Claudia, the grandmother, and then her mother, it looks like, "Oh, this is really obvious." But to Gwen, it wasn't.

So, Claudia, her grandmother used to always say to her mother, "Always keep a secret stash for shopping." So that's a generational message. And she felt like she didn't have a lot of power to make financial decisions. She'd always keep a little stash. And then when Sophia, Gwen's mom grew up, she kind of translated that, again, maybe not consciously into shopping relieves stress. So one of the things that Gwen remembers doing is mom would be stressed out. She'd be angry at the father and she would run off and say, "Let's go to the mall. Let's have a good time. Let's spend some money."

So now Gwen is, she's an adult, she's divorced, she's stressed out. And what's her thought? Spending money makes me feel better. It's pretty obvious where she got that money message. And for her to actually change her investing behavior and being able to save for her kids' college education is less about setting up some sort of system to do that and more about changing her money story. What we worked on, and I'm happy to report Gwen was able to do, was stress management techniques.

Instead of saying, "Spending money makes me feel better." The reality was, "Spending money makes me feel worse. And when I'm stressed out, there's a variety of things that I can do." For Gwen. It was listening to music on the way home and singing along and then taking a bubble bath. For others, it could be different things. But the point is when you look at your Money-O-Gram and you fill it in, what you see are these trends and you start to realize, wow, these family money messages have been passed down.

It's fun to do, and it can be very enlightening. I encourage you to do this after the seminar today and really start to look at your money genogram. And a little later, we'll talk about how you could use this to spark a financial conversation. So that is technique number one. And the ultimate goal of uncovering your money story is to identify the stories that you tell yourself. Or in other words, the stories that I tell myself about saving money, about spending money, and about investing money. And I might even add another line about gifting money.

Once you identify the stories that you tell yourself, you can start to understand, "Why do I feel that way?" For me, if I spend money and I spend money and I don't save money, because this is a family money message, thrifty Yankees. Grew up where the only time you could spend money was when you were saving money. So many of you may have that thought, or maybe nobody has that thought but me. Thus when I go and I buy something at retail and I don't save money, it causes me a lot of angst.

Why is that? Because the story I tell myself is saving money is good. And that spending money is only acceptable if I'm saving money. So that's how it works. So hopefully that makes sense to you. Let's move on to the next tactic because I want to have time for us to do a little bit of an interaction and to have you experience uncovering your money story or portion of your money story during our time together. Tactic two is identifying your money talk mindset.

Now, a mindset is similar to a story. You can kind of use those words interchangeably. A mindset is a set of beliefs or way of thinking that influences our behaviors or mental outlook. So what is the story you're telling yourself about engaging in a money conversation? And that's what we're going to try to uncover. What I'm going to ask you to do, if you are sitting in front of your computer and you can pull out a piece of paper and a pen, you may have a tablet that you prefer to type in. You do not need to share these answers with anybody. This is only for yourself.

But what I'm going to do in a minute, as you're pulling out something to write with, or something to jot down your responses with is I'm going to read off five statements. And what you're going to do is complete those statements with what comes to your mind automatically. This is a way of identifying those automatic thoughts and beliefs that we typically aren't conscious of around the topic of engaging in wealth conversations or the word I often use is money talk.

Again, you do not need to share these. Be as honest with yourself. Don't worry if they're right, wrong, don't worry if they're politically correct, just whatever pops into your mind. And we're going to do this pretty quick because they're automatic thoughts and beliefs. They're not ones that you ponder. So here we go. The first sentence I would like you to complete is talking about money with loved ones is. Whatever pops into your mind, just write it down. Talking about money with my loved ones is.

And this goes pretty quick. I know it does. Talking to my adult children. And if you don't have adult children but you have aging parents, you can do this. You can say aging parents. Talking to my adult children about money is, or you can choose talking to my aging parents about money is. Pick whatever's more relevant to your situation. So talking to my adult children or aging parents about money is. This one's pretty straightforward. The financial topic I find the most difficult to discuss is. What's the one that you always avoid.

For anybody out there who's a financial professional that's attending, answer these questions too because your money talk mindset is really important. Not only in terms of your personal life, but in terms of your work with your clients as well. So conversely, the financial topic I find the easiest to discuss is. And then my favorite one of all, because I'm a coach at heart, is the biggest fear I have when it comes to money talk is. Another way of thinking about that is the biggest lie I tell myself about money talk is. Your biggest fear, your biggest lie.

Okay. What I want you to do now is think about how did the stories that you tell yourself about engaging in wealth conversations or money talk impact your ability to engage in these conversations? What is their impact? And by the way, everybody's mindset or money story influences them both in a positive way, there's always strengths and there's always challenges or blind spots. So that's a big question. But what I'd like you to do right now is open up your Q&A box, then I will do the same as you do this. If I can find my little mouse here.

I'm going to open the Q&A and what I want you to do, just jot in the question area one strength that you think your money talk mindset has. What's one thing you're good at when it comes to talking about money? You just want to type that in and nobody can see your responses, by the way, this is anonymous. So, type in what's one strength of your money talk mindset and what is one challenge. So a strength is I'm willing to do so- the idea that you're willing to engage in these conversations is certainly a strength.

What's another strength? That I am investing time and energy in that strength. I'm finding possible solutions in these conversations. I am taking the risk to engage in these conversations. Great. So there's a couple of risks. We want to keep this moving a little bit but there's a couple of risks that come up...excuse me, strengths. What are some of the blind spots? What are some of the things that make it hard to talk about money? Do me a favor and let's have those listed out.

What's a challenge when it comes to this part of your money story around engaging in conversations? Spending is a weakness. So maybe talking about spending is a little bit harder. What's another challenge that you have around your mindset? Maybe a blind spot, something you want to work on. I know it's hard to be vulnerable. I know for me, when it comes to my money talk mindset, I have to work on mind-reading. I love to mind read my husband's thoughts, which is not useful in engaging in a financial conversation- I need to take it slower and slow down.

Oh, uncertain about earnings. I'm concerned about the accuracy of my judgments. I'm challenged around financial planning. I don't talk about money, frankly. I make assumptions and that may not be right. So that's mind-reading like I do. Great. Well, thank you so much for just jotting down some of your thoughts. The reason that we did that is I want everybody to see that everybody has parts of their money story and mindset that are strengths that really help us be financially well. And every single one of us, including experts and financial professionals, have blind spots or challenges that you need to work on.

It's really important to be able to identify both the strengths and the challenges. Great. Well, thank you for engaging in that exercise with me. I really appreciate it. So, we have talked about uncovering your money story and how uncovering those thoughts and beliefs like in Gwen's case could help you then change your financial behavior. We've talked quickly about your money talk mindset, which is a subset of your money story of what are the messages you tell yourself about engaging in wealth conversations and how do they help you engage in wealth conversations and how do they potentially get in the way?

The third and final pack that we're going to talk about is how to start a money conversation. And it may be that you're starting this conversation with a partner or you're engaging in this conversation with a financial professional, or you're engaging in this conversation with next-gen or a friend, could be anybody you want. But part of breaking money, silence, and engaging in money talk is allowing yourself to take the risks to do so.

The first step that I'm going to encourage you to participate in, even if you've been doing money talks for a really long time, it's always good to take a step back. And I want you to think about what are the money talk guidelines that you want to set up. Because if we have guidelines around what this conversation is going to look like, we are much more likely to have a productive conversation than have one that's not productive.

If you've ever participated in a family meeting with your advisor, chances are there were some guidelines on what was going to be covered and how we were going to interact. Well, this is the same thing for you outside of the advisor's office. I have a handout called "Money Talk Guidelines" and basically involves seven different tactics that you can use to engage in a productive money conversation. And I'm going to just highlight three. The first is to use I statements. What do I mean by that?

That if you are going to have a money conversation, it's best to say, "You know what, you spend too much money." It's better to say, "When you spend money, I feel upset." Do you see how that's different? Using I statements and actively listening helps you engage in a conversation that's calmer, that's a little less emotional, and that's going to allow you to hear what the other person has to say but also be able to share what you have to say.

It seems simple. We all know we should use I statements. It's not that simple when you're having a conversation that might potentially turn emotional. The other thing you should do, and I already mentioned that I'm not very good at this, and this is my growing edge, is you don't want to mind read. Often when we are in a partnership for a long period of time, or if we've been raising kids for a long period of time, that we automatically assume what the other conversational partner is going to say, because we've been here before in our mind. And so we're like, "I know what you're going to say."

Well, another guideline is to not read minds because there's nothing more frustrating than having someone tell you what you think. When in fact it's better to ask and be curious about what they think. So really watch the mind-reading. And then the last guideline I'm going to offer is to agree to disagree. The purpose of a money or wealth conversation is always to agree and have it tied up in a neat bow. The purpose of a wealth conversation is to get to a place where you understand the other person.

The goal is mutual understanding, not always mutual agreement. So if you want a copy of those "Money Talk Guidelines," I'll make sure that Boston Private gets them to you because I realized we didn't put them in the handout section yet. So I'll make sure that that follow-up handout gets to your attention.

Get curious with your kids (43:18)

Let's talk about being curious with your kids. And by the way, if you don't have kids, which I don't have kids, this can be being curious with the next generation. It could be being curious with your nieces and nephews or to someone that you mentor.

How do we engage in curious conversations with our kids? How do we help them identify and express their money stories so they can have greater financial wellbeing? Well, there's a few tactics I'm going to share today. The first is it's important to capitalize on teachable moments. Now, you may or may not know what that means but for me, that means you are in a situation, something occurs that relates to money, finances decision-making and you go, "Oh, this is an opportunity for us to talk about money."

It's different than lecturing, which usually doesn't work. It's like, you know, a college kid comes home and says, "Oh, can you believe I got this phone bill? It's huge. I didn't even know it was going to be this huge." Teachable moment to talk about phone bills, to talk about, you know, what the responsibility is for them in terms of budgeting. Other areas that are teachable moments, life transitions, whether this is someone getting a new job, going off to college, maybe it's buying a new house, there's all sorts of ways in which you can capitalize on these moments and start to ask curious questions of the younger people in your life.

One of the things I always encourage parents to do, grandparents to do, and aunts and uncles to do is ask about successes. Often when it comes to financial conversations, we focus on the negative when, in fact, we should spend time focusing on successes. Ask the young people in your life. "You know, you made a great decision there, you landed this job, you got a great salary. What do you think went right in your salary negotiation?"

Then maybe just one, "What's a mistake or what's an area you'd like to improve on?" It's capitalizing on these teachable moments and looking for opportunities to engage in the conversation. Also, with the next generation in particular and Gen-Z, it's important to talk to them about how they express their values through their financial behaviors. And that direct question works beautifully. Like, "Let's think about, you know, what you spent your money on last month, how do you think that expresses your values? Is it in line with what you think's important?"

A lot of Next-Gen feel that, you know, investing in our environment, climate change, sustainable investing, all sorts of things that are socially responsible are things that are important to them and align with their values. Teaching and asking the next generation about how they express their values through their relationship with money, helps them train their brain to think in those terms. And that can be an enlightening conversation.

And lastly, you can share the Family Money-O-Gram. The exercise that I did before that family tree, you can do that for yourself or with your partner. And then you can share it with your kids and engage in a money conversation using that chart. Or I actually encourage families to do it together. And then everybody can ask questions about different generations and different people's relationship, and you can engage in a very meaningful, rich conversation about wealth.

Talk to your aging parents (46:44)

The other area that I'm asked about a lot is talking to aging parents. So, talking to aging parents isn't easy for many of us. I think it's very similar to talking to younger kids and that you want to capitalize on teachable moments and you want to be respectful. But I think with aging parents, the thing to keep in mind when you're reaching out to engage in that conversation is to know that for them often aging means a loss of control or feeling of loss of control and a sense that somebody's going to take over.

When you're talking about money with them and engaging in these wealth conversations, make sure you extend a loving invitation. Make sure you let them have control as much as they can over when, where, and how to have the conversation. So instead of saying, "You know, mom, I've been really thinking about, you know, the fact that we need to get your estate plan updated. We need to get that health proxy updated." That instead of just coming in and doing that saying, "You know, mom, I have some concerns about how old your estate plan is. I'm wondering when a good time for you might be to sit down and for us to talk about it."

It's a shift that is extending a loving invitation, giving control whenever possible, and it allows your parent, who's used to having control, maintain some sort of respect and dignity. Now, you can also just start a general conversation with a parent around what is a financial success? What's their financial success story? And I think also it's important to keep the conversations brief. And I would say that whether it's an aging parent, whether it's a kid or a partner, we want to have a series of little wealth conversations over time and we build on that success as opposed to just sitting down and having one long conversation.

Here are a couple of conversation starters to consider. Again, the financial success, what's one financial success you had, and what did you learn from that experience? What's one financial lesson? This could be talking to a kid, "What's one financial lesson that I taught you growing up and how did it impact you? How does it impact your financial wellbeing now? How did it impact the story you tell yourself about money and your financial behaviors?"

Lastly, if we talked regularly about money, what would you want to discuss? It's so interesting. We think we should talk more about money. We're free to talk more about money but we often don't take a step back and say, "Hey, if we did this more often, what topics would you want to discuss?" Keep in mind, this could be your kid. This could be your partner. This could be a girlfriend. When you both make a commitment, we just want to be financially healthier so you can engage in those conversations together.

The thing that I think is most important in our time together today, which went very quick and I realize there's a lot of information, is for you to think about what's one action step you are going to take as a result of your time here today. Now, in a minute, I'll give you a poll and give you some ideas as to what those action steps could be. But think about what's one topic, maybe out of the tactics I offered or out of talking about money stories, that resonated with you and you thought, "Oh, that's me." Or "Maybe I want to explore that a little bit more."

What you want to do as you want to go to the handout section in your webinar, your go-to webinar app, you can just pull it down and you will see that this worksheet that is on the screen is right there for you. You just can download it and then fill it out. I encourage you to fill it out within an hour, a couple of from the seminar because it's fresh in your mind. But what you want to do is write down one doable action. Maybe the doable action is, "I'm going to ask my financial advisor about the Family Money-O-Gram, and maybe is that something we could do together?"

Or maybe it's, "You know what? I've been putting off, having a financial conversation about my partner. Maybe instead of just delving into that conversation, I'll ask them if we were to talk about money more regularly, what would that look like? What would we want to talk about? "And it's the one action step would be asking that one question. You will want to share your plan with a family member, a friend, or your advisor, because when we share what our action plans are, we're more likely to do them.

When we write them down, we're more likely to do them and then commit to change. Not overwhelming change, just small doable steps. Because when we start to uncover our money story, when we start to understand how the stories that we tell ourselves impact our financial wellness, we can commit to changing things a little bit at a time. And the beauty of doing that is you do not need to do that perfectly right. It's practice, not perfection.

This is a lovely picture of me. I took a backcountry skiing this past winter. I'm a very good Alpine skier, but I am, from the picture you can tell, pretty horrible backcountry skier. And there's some different techniques with backcountry. There's different and skis, and there's a different way in which you actually... It's a tele term. It's a different way in which you actually ski down the mountain in the backcountry. And so, as you can see, I attempted to go over, not even a hill, I would call it a knoll and I did a face plant.

The reason I have this picture in this seminar and in this deck is because I think it so summarizes what we need to do when we're working on financial wellness. We need to cut ourselves a break. I went over that hill. I did a header. It wasn't pretty. Initially, I thought, "Ugh, I messed up." And then I started to hysterically laugh. My husband, the helpful person that he was in this moment, took the picture. I am now thankful. At the time I felt, "Why are you taking picture? Why aren't you helping me up?"

And you know what I did? I got out there every Saturday and attempted that same trail until I could get over that little knoll without falling on my face. I practiced and practiced, and I didn't shoot for perfection. I encouraged you to do the same when you are looking at your money story, when you are looking at financial wellness, and when you are trying to be as healthy as you can be around your finances.

If you are interested in more conversation starters, just know you can go to my website, which is the middle bullet there, breakingmoneysilence.com. On the homepage, you can sign up for 52 free money talk tips. Every week you get a short email about a creative way to start a money conversation with somebody in your life. And you can choose financial professional. If you're in the profession, you can choose that you are a woman in business if that indeed fits. And if you don't fit those two categories, just pick other.

So you receive a tip a week, it keeps it top of mind and helps you remember, "You know what, I should break money silence this week because it will help me improve my financial wellness." I want to end before I shift it back to Kathleen and we see if there's any time for Q&A. I want to end with a poll. And we are going to launch this poll, which basically is asking the question, what is one action you plan to take as a result of this webinar today? Now, I gave you some options. You don't have to commit to these options but they're good follow-ups.

One is to start a money talk, think about what's a money conversation you've been putting off? And how might you use what you learned today to engage and start that dialogue? Maybe you want to complete the Money-O-Gram, and you say, "That's a really cool thing. I want to do a family tree about our relationship and money messages." Or maybe you want to meet with your advisor and talk about what you learned today. It could be one of those. It could be all three of those but let's start small and we'll keep the poll open for a few more seconds. And then I'll let you know what most of you would like to do as follow-up as we transition to the end of our time today.

Let's close that poll. The result are, 53% said they'll start a money talk. That's exciting, Kathleen. Thirty-two percent will complete a Money-O-Gram. And 16% will meet with their partner. That's super exciting. So, I know we need to turn it over to Q&A and end. So yeah, fill me in, what resonated with you, Kathleen? And are there any questions that are percolating?

Q&A (56:00)

Kathleen Kenealy: Yeah, we have a couple questions but thank you so much for this. This is so interesting. As you were talking, I was spending a lot of time reliving moments of my childhood and some of the things that still resonate to me. And, you know, one of the things I remember very vividly was my mother talking about how important it was to have $1000 in her checking account. Like as long as she had $1000 in her checking account, she felt like she could handle whatever came her way.

And it's little things like that that I think also contribute to why I became an advisor in the first place and why, you know, money talk, you know, and money everything, I find so enjoyable. And I'm probably the only person on your poll that answered, "Talking about money with my loved ones is fun." So I can't imagine very many people, you know, wrote that down. But, anyway, so I do have a couple questions here. One is, "Would you advise telling one's children the amount of money they might inherit? Would this focus their minds?"

Kathleen Burns Kingsbury: You know, it's such an individual choice that that's something that I would encourage people to talk to their advisor about. I think when it comes to money silence, I think the essence of preparing your kids to know that they're going to receive wealth and that you want to communicate your family values and depending on their age and their development and their maturity and their financial skills, at some point communicating what that transfer of wealth will look like.

I get asked this question all the time. It's a great question, but there's no cookie-cutter answer. What I would encourage you to do is talk with your kids about the specifics. And then if you do have a partner or you need to think about how you need to break money silence, you can use some of these tools to start the conversation, and then lead up to the bigger conversation that you would be having about an inheritance. I don't know if you have anything to add to that, Kathleen.

Kathleen Kenealy: Yeah, I would definitely echo your comments. I have some of the same conversations with some of the clients that I work with. And it's usually me encouraging them to try to start the dialogue with the next generation. You know, because none of us are going to live forever and someday they will find out, you know, what's there and how much money there is. And it's much better, I think for people to find out, you know, from their parents. And while you can talk about it, instead of from the attorney who calls you, you know...

Kathleen Burns Kingsbury: Exactly. I agree.

Kathleen Kenealy: One of the other questions we have is, "I have trouble saying no to my college or adult kids when they ask for money. Do you have any advice?"

Kathleen Burns Kingsbury: I do have advice on that one because that comes up a lot. Basically, when you have trouble saying no to your kids, there are two parts to it. One is you probably have... And you need to look at your money story. But part of it is it may be that you have a story that good parents give money to their kids, or don't deny their kids financial resources. Now, I'm making a big leap. So you have to uncover your own money story around this. But think about how your parents treated you around money when you made financial requests and how is this influencing how you're making these decisions around your kids that are college age.

With that said, once you identify what are the messages, or what's the story you're telling yourself about your parenting, if you say yes versus you say no, you also need to think about that setting financial limits with your kids is teaching them a valuable lesson. It may be instead of saying yes all the time, saying no, but no with the offer of help.

In other words, it's, "You know what, the last three times I helped you paid off that credit card bill, but this time let's sit down and talk about how maybe you can avoid spend like this in the future. And, you know, maybe I'll work at paying half of it. You pay half of it knowing the month after that you're going to be responsible for any overages that you have." So it's saying no but no with help, not just no, but, "No let's problem-solve together. Let me teach you this financial skill."

Because I believe that financial limit setting with kids can actually be a great gift. That's certainly an area that I know is very hard for parents, but can be very useful to delve into your money story and think about how you can shift your thoughts to then support educating your kids about money, setting those limits, and helping them learn this important skill of learning from their mistakes.

Kathleen Kenealy: Great. Thank you so much. That's so helpful. We have covered a lot during our discussion today. I found the data regarding the culture of money shame to be so eye-opening. Thank you for that. It's really unfortunate that so much emotion can be tied up in our thoughts and actions regarding money, especially where so many people would likely find themselves just more empowered financially if they felt more comfortable talking about this topic.

I'd like to encourage everyone on the call today with us, or those of you who might be reviewing the reporting after the fact, to reach out to your Boston Private advisor if the conversation has brought up any issues you'd like to discuss or reasons that you might want to revisit your financial plan, or if you'd like to further explore how your money mindset might be impacting your financial decision making and the money legacy that you're passing on to your children.

So thank you so much, Kathleen, for joining us today and providing your insights on this important topic. I really enjoyed the presentation. And for everyone on the call, we will be sending out the resources that we talked about today, as well as the recording of the discussion. So keep an eye out for those via email and social media and on our website. Enjoy the rest of your day.

The views expressed in the article are those of the author and/or person interviewed and do not necessarily reflect the views of Silicon Valley Bank, a division of First-Citizens Bank and First Citizens BancShares, Inc. The materials on this website are for informational purposes only, are subject to change and do not take into account your particular investment objective, financial situation or need. Since each client’s situation is unique, you should consult your financial advisor and/or tax planning professional before acting on any information provided herein.