In a world filled with feedback systems for health, safety, and navigation, families often lack tools to assess the impact of their current practices on future relationships. Nowhere is this more crucial than in a family’s engagement with money, wealth, and estate planning—a realm where choices shape the collective journey. To guide families toward enduring harmony, the Fidelity Center for Family Engagement (FCFE) has identified five leading indicators that serve as compass points on the path to familial closeness and connection.
1. Dialogue: Creating Shared Meaning
What it is: Dialogue transcends mere conversation; it involves “talking through” money-related topics, understanding diverse perspectives, and aligning around shared interests and outcomes. It’s a skill-based sport that, when mastered, fosters enriched relationships and prevents unintended outcomes.
Why it matters: Genuine discussions about wishes, fears, values, and decisions create shared meaning, contributing to enduring family harmony.
What you can do: Treat dialogue as a skill to be honed. Start with simpler topics before delving into complex, emotional discussions. Identify necessary skills, practice, and gradually navigate more challenging conversations.
2. Story: Creating Shared Understanding
What it is: Families are defined by their stories. The family narrative, comprising individual and collective experiences, shapes how families think and talk about money. Developing a shared understanding of these stories builds intimacy and shapes the family’s current and future financial narrative.
Why it matters: A shared understanding of your family’s story strengthens connections and influences how you approach money-related decisions.
What you can do: Ask family members about their version of the family story. Listen without judgment, focusing on emotional aspects. Explore both successes and failures and use keywords to delve deeper into their experiences.
3. Collective: Creating Shared Identity
What it is: Families experience both individual and collective aspects. Emotional health comes from balancing the “me” and “us” in family dynamics, including discussions on money, wealth, and estate planning.
Why it matters: Recognizing and discussing individual and collective perspectives fosters enduring health and harmony, particularly in transitioning from parent-child relationships to adult peership.
What you can do: When discussing financial matters, be intentional about acknowledging both individual and collective perspectives. Clarify decision-making roles depending on life stage and topic.
4. Life Events: Creating Shared Experiences
What it is: Life events, when intertwined with money-related discussions, offer gateways into developmental conversations. How families engage verbally, emotionally, and functionally around these events is crucial for intimacy and connection.
Why it matters: Delving into the emotional significance of life events, particularly regarding money, helps families foster connection and navigate complexity.
What you can do: Anticipate upcoming life events, considering the emotions and opportunities they represent. Understand how your family’s history influences current behavior during significant events.
5. Family Alignment: Creating Shared Purpose
What it is: Alignment involves establishing a shared vision, co-creating principles, sharing vulnerabilities, and discussing what it means to trust the process. This process helps families navigate critical financial matters with a shared purpose.
Why it matters: Aligning around a shared purpose enables families to navigate complex financial decisions with unity and trust.
What you can do: Be intentional about your family’s conversational process. Establish a shared vision, co-create principles, share vulnerabilities, and discuss the importance of trusting the process.
Working Toward Family Harmony
Each of these five leading indicators serves as a reflective guide for families seeking more intimate communication and connection around money, wealth, and estate planning. Collaborating with a financial advisor can assist in incorporating these indicators into family engagement, paving the way toward enduring family harmony—a destination as elusive as it is rewarding. By adopting these practices, families can navigate the complexities of financial decisions with unity, trust, and lasting connection.
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