Hi Taylor: How do I talk about (or avoid talking about) money with my in-laws? My husband’s parents have a lot of money and I come from a very working-class family. I almost have anxiety attacks whenever we visit my in-laws because I feel like such a fish out of water. Any advice? – Arden
Hey Arden: Sorry to hear about this situation. I come from humble beginnings myself and definitely remember that fish-out-of-water sensation. It’s really hard to feel like you’re of a different class than those around you, especially when it’s family.
Some people view money as an untouchable topic—like politics—and think it should be avoided in discussion. I don’t agree that it should be off limits, but recognize the conversation takes a certain amount of finesse. A few things to think about that might help:
Don’t overtly avoid it. Money can’t be ignored, since everything we look at cost someone, something, at some point. If you try to pretend otherwise, people will notice and that anxiety attack will start bubbling over. Don’t be afraid to ask about the nice things your in-laws own, or discuss your job where you hope to get a raise. The issue is never talking about money, it’s the judgment people feel when the topic comes up. As much as possible, be interested in what others have to say and confident in what you have to offer. If your father-in-law makes a snide comment about millennials and their work ethic, then you can skip to another room and shift the conversation.
What’s the fear? Do your in-laws talk about money in a way that’s uncomfortable, or do you just worry about saying something that will make you look foolish? I ask because, in many cases, we build up tension in our heads that doesn’t really exist. Unless you lied and said you were a wealthy heiress, I doubt anyone is looking to debate you about your knowledge of wealth. Speak to what you know and try not to get caught up worrying about what’s outside your control. You have no power over the previous generation’s money. Your focus is on your life, your marriage, and your wealth. Whatever advice comes from another couple—his parents, your parents, me—you get to take that with a grain of salt.
Talk to your husband. Hopefully the lines of communication are strong between you two, because these are important concerns for you to share. He might agree or disagree with your perception of his parents, but you’ll both benefit from him knowing how you feel. Money has been a point of contention for pretty much every couple throughout human history, and the only way to rise above is to communicate, be supportive, and work through these issues as a team.
I feel for you, Arden, but I’m sure this will get better with time. Just be confident in who you are, where you came from, and where you’re going. Your in-laws can’t ask for more than that.
Disclosure: Information presented is for educational purposes only and is not an offer or solicitation for the sale or purchase of any specific securities, investments, or investment strategies. Investments involve risk and, unless otherwise stated, are not guaranteed. Be sure to first consult with a qualified financial adviser and/or tax professional before implementing any strategy discussed herein. To submit a question to be answered in this column, please send it via email to Question@GoFarWithKovar.com, or via USPS to Taylor Kovar, 415 S 1st St, Suite 300, Lufkin, TX 75901.
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