TIAA survey reveals both parents and adult children feel discussing
money is very important, but few are having the conversation
While emotional barriers exist, families who frequently talk about
finances are happier and have better understanding of financial plans
New resources are available to guide the conversation
NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Many families find it tough to start conversations about money, but
parents and adult children who talk about finances feel more positive
about them than families who don’t, according to a new survey by TIAA.
To help more families start talking, TIAA has developed a toolkit and
other resources informed by the new findings.
Today, few families are talking about finances, even though most parents
and adult children agree that having detailed financial conversations as
a family is important. These conversations illuminate what’s most
important to the family, financially and otherwise, and help establish a
shared plan of success.
These insights and others were revealed in the TIAA Family Money Matters
Survey, which gauges emotions and behaviors related to financial topics
among American parents and their adult children.
To help families start the conversation, TIAA worked with people around
the country to document their own financial discussions. The resulting
Money Matters,” depicting real families talking about
their finances, shows that these conversations don’t have to be
uncomfortable. Instead, they can be highly valuable when planning for
future financial goals and obligations, and for managing the transfer of
family wealth between generations – now and in the future.
“There’s a huge benefit to parents and adult children who engage
in conversations about finances,” said Kathie Andrade, chief executive
officer of TIAA’s Retail Financial Services business. “In fact, talking
openly about money is often easier than expected, and can even help
bring families closer together. Ultimately, these discussions help
everyone make more informed decisions and facilitate the support parents
and children already provide for each other.”
An Important Conversation That Isn’t Happening
While both parents and adult children consider financial conversations
to be very important (74 percent and 87 percent, respectively),
surprisingly few people surveyed in either generation are very likely to
start a conversation about any financial topic (just 11 percent of
parents and 37 percent of adult children).
But while neither party seems willing to initiate the conversation, both
parents and their children are open to having them:
81 percent of both parents and adult children surveyed perceive the
other as at least somewhat open to having a conversation about
parents’ personal finances.
When it came to adult children’s personal finances, 64 percent of
parents perceive their children as at least somewhat open to the
conversation. Similarly, 87 percent of children feel their parents
would be at least somewhat open to a conversation about their
children’s personal finances.
While the two generations agree they should be talking, they disagree
about when to get started. For example, about one-fourth of parents
surveyed say they are content to wait until their age or health becomes
an issue before having financial conversations. One in five say they are
content to not have the discussion at all. But one-fourth of children
surveyed, however, think the conversation should happen well before
their parents’ retirement. Only one in seven say they are content to
have the conversation when their parents get closer to retirement.
When families do talk about money matters, the survey finds that only 9
percent of parents felt the conversation was very detailed. One possible
reason: Nearly all of parents (89 percent) and most children (70
percent) say conversations about parents’ finances and future plans
These findings suggest that making a plan for a financial conversation
in advance – choosing a specific time, date and place – might result in
a more helpful, detailed discussion.
Without Family Financial Conversations, Significant Disconnects Exist
The survey finds that the lack of conversations between parents and
their adult children lead to a number of misconceptions around the state
of their families’ financial health.
Although many family members believe wealth is shared only as an
inheritance, the survey shows that nearly all parents and children are
already currently providing some form of material financial assistance
to one another. Yet parents and adult children often don’t perceive
themselves as receiving significant amounts of money from the other
generation during their lifetime.
In fact, one-third of children say they have received money from their
parents for things like childcare, student loans, rent/mortgages or cell
Parents are benefitting, too: About 40 percent of adult children say
they provide money to their parents for things like transportation,
housing and other living expenses. But parents see things differently,
with only 6 percent saying they get financial assistance from their
children for general living expenses.
Another disconnect: Adult children say they are more willing to help out
their parents than parents think. Only one in four parents believe that
their children are obligated to help them financially, but about three
in four children said they would feel obligated to help their parents.
Misconceptions were also found surrounding inheritance. Twenty percent
of children don’t expect to inherit anything at all from their parents –
however, just 7 percent of parents say they plan to leave no inheritance
for their children.
Obstacles to Getting Started
One of the main reasons that families aren’t talking about finances is
that both parents and adult children believe that these discussions
would be awkward or that the topics discussed would bring up
Roughly one-third of parents and children alike (29 percent and 37
percent, respectively) say that considering having these conversations
makes them feel uncomfortable. Parents and their children are less
likely to say that financial conversations would bring up positive
emotions like happiness or optimism. Just 16 percent of parents and 26
percent of children say the conversation brings to mind happy thoughts,
with fewer – 11 percent for both parents and children – saying the
conversation would be uplifting.
Have the Conversation with your Family Now
There are new ways to overcome these communication gaps. Being prepared
with the right questions and tools can help families feel more positive
about these discussions. For example, nearly half of parents (45
percent) who frequently talk to their children about their future
financial plans feel proud about how those conversations went.
“We know our Gen Y customers trust financial advice from their families
above all others,” said Andrade. “Open family dialogue can help our
younger customers learn from their parents’ experiences, ask for support
with first-home down payments or education expenses, and help them
understand what’s most important to their parents as they grow older.
Every family is different, but there are definite benefits to
approaching financial goals together.”
In addition to the video featuring families talking about their own
finances, TIAA created conversation starters that any family can use to
jumpstart and guide these financial conversations. With questions
designed for parents
to ask one another, TIAA hopes families will engage in more planned,
For additional information on the importance of family conversations,
TIAA has resources at TIAA.org/conversations,
and educational materials and articles, such as “Five
Reasons To Hold A Family Meeting Now,” “Family
Meetings: Start The Conversation” and “Living
In The Sandwich Generation.”
For more information on the Family Money Matters Survey, refer to TIAA’s executive
summary and online experience.
The TIAA 2017 Family Money Matters Survey was conducted by KRC Research
for the purpose of understanding thoughts, emotions and behaviors around
the transfer of assets from parents to adult children. The online survey
consisted of 1,000 Americans age 60 to 70 with adult children age 30 to
45 and 1,000 Americans age 30 to 45 with at least one living parent age
60 to 70.
Questions spanned a variety of topics from their approach to discussing
future financial plans, emotions about these conversations, barriers
that inhibit these conversations, and financial obligations and
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