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Published November 22, 2011, 11:30 PM

Family gatherings a good time to talk finances

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – It’s time to talk turkey. No, not that big bird in the oven, but the chance to chat about a far less mouth-watering topic: family finances.

By: McClatchy Newspapers, INFORUM

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – It’s time to talk turkey. No, not that big bird in the oven, but the chance to chat about a far less mouth-watering topic: family finances.

This week, as parents, kids and siblings gather ’round for the Thanksgiving holiday, financial experts say it can be an ideal time to initiate conversations about money matters.

“It’s a family-centered holiday and a good time to talk,” said Eleanor Blayney, a certified financial planner and consumer advocate with the CFP Board of Standards in Washington, D.C.

To make the conversation-starters easier, we’ve broken them down by category:

Your parents

It can be a delicate topic to broach. If you come across as aggressive or condescending, it can sound like you’re only interested in how much money they’ve got or how much you’ll inherit.

“Your approach is crucial,” said Cindy Adams, a Sacramento-based certified financial planner. “Family dynamics can be explosive. Be compassionate: ‘What can we help you with financially? Is there an issue you’d like to talk about?’ ”

Another way to bring up the topic is by talking about a “friend” who is dealing with financial issues regarding their parents.

The goal is to avoid financial turmoil later on. “If something happens and a parent is in the hospital on life support, you don’t want to be in a situation where you don’t know their wishes, you can’t pay their utility bills, etc.,” said Adams.

She suggests asking parents to make a list of accounts (with banks or brokerages where they’re held), along with other documents such as a will, trust, health care directive or power of attorney.

“They don’t have to share the list or the amounts with you, but you should know where the list is located and/or the attorney who drafted their will or trust,” said Adams.

Your adult siblings

One of the necessary discussions may be how to support Mom or Dad, should they need care.

“Often times, kids assume the daughter will take care of the parents. But that needs to be negotiated,” said Blayney.

Is someone willing to take an aging parent into his or her home? If so, what are the other siblings’ responsibilities? Who has power of attorney to pay bills?

You should also discuss with siblings if you’ve named one of them as guardian to raise your kids in the event something happens to you.

“People’s lives change, and this once-a-year check-in can be a great opportunity to make sure you and your siblings understand each other’s wishes,” Blayney noted.

Your college students

As a mother and a certified financial planner, Tina Florence knows she wants her two teenage sons to be money-savvy.

So when her 19-year-old college sophomore returns home from the University of California-Los Angeles this week, she’s got a mission: getting him to open his first Roth IRA account.

“I’m gonna raise the issue,” said Florence, who sees a Roth IRA as a perfect introduction to investing and to launching long-term savings for retirement. Even for a 19-year-old.

As a financial professional with Lane Florence LLC in Folsom, Calif., Florence says she’s seen plenty of clients who are embarrassed to admit they never learned the difference between stocks, mutual funds and ETFs.

Starting teens early with something like an IRA lets them pick up the investing vocabulary.

“It helps make them educated investors so if they ever hire an outside adviser, they’ll understand the meaning of reinvested dividends, ETFs, mutual funds. They’ll know the language.”

Your younger children

As TV ads and store displays start ramping up kids’ holiday expectations, this week can be a time to gently dial back those hyped-up visions.

“Talk about gift-giving,” said Blayney, a CFP and grandmother. “What are good ways to give gifts without breaking the budget? Have them think about what they want to give to other family members or to charity. Many kids see the holidays completely on the receiving side; we can involve them more on the giving side.”

Some families like to use Thanksgiving as an occasion to pick individual names for gift-giving, set a dollar limit or encourage handmade gifts, instead of store-bought.

One of Adams’ client couples always asks their kids gather up their unwanted toys, then donate them to a local charity. “It’s trying to teach (the kids) the need to give at the same time they’re getting.”