Christmas is approaching, and anxiety levels are already rising. Everyone has that one difficult relative that always manages to throw a verbal hand grenade partway through holiday dinner. In a nutshell, a successful holiday weekend is defined as making it to the football games still speaking to your relatives.

Cooler heads might see the holidays differently: as an opportunity to connect with parents, children and siblings – and to put that rare commodity called face-to-face time to good use.

For everyone, the holidays mean family. And family conjures up concerns about whether our parents will be able to retire, if our brother-in-law is a fiscally responsible mate to our kid sister and if our children have what it takes to thrive financially.

All these issues have one thing in common: money mindset. (That’s a woo-woo term that means how healthy your relationship is with money.)

And money mindset – whether your financial war chest is loaded or empty – depends on two key factors: how you think about yourself and how you think about money. How you think about yourself is far too broad a topic to deal with here. However, ‘how you think about money’ is more manageable. And your beliefs about money do affect your financial outcomes.

Dr. Brad Klontz is a financial psychologist and author of books with titles like Mind Over Money, Wired For Wealth and The Financial Wisdom of Ebenezer Scrooge. He addresses money mindset in a tidy little list that is actually deceptively simple-looking. Here it is.

  • Look into your past – at how money was dealt with all around you as you grew up.
  • Discover your “money scripts” – or the unconscious core beliefs about money – often handed down from one generation to another – that you absorbed in childhood.
  • Get totally honest with yourself – about the true state of your financial health, no judgment, just truth.
  • Envision your financial goals – so you get the powerful clarity that will help you actually reach them.
  • Find a financial mentor – someone who knows more than you do about different aspects of your financial life.

If you unpack this list fully, you will go on a journey of self-discovery that will have you smacking your forehead at times and forgiving yourself at others. But for purposes of this article, let’s see what we can do as a family over the holidays to trigger some financial growth, for starters.

The past: Agree in advance with all the adults in the room that each will tell a short story sometime during Thanksgiving dinner, aimed at the younger ones. The story should focus on someone in the family who overcame difficult odds. It doesn’t have to be about money, although it can be. The purpose is to anchor some family history and to reinforce the belief that among the family genes are those that give us all the strength to strive, not just survive.

Money scripts: From among the old saws like money is bad, rich people are greedy, money brings happiness, or more money will solve everything, pick one that feels familiar. Bring it up casually in conversation with a family member. “I heard someone say they believe that all rich people are greedy. What do you think about that? Do you think it’s always true?” Let the money conversation flow non-judgmentally. Get into the habit of triggering such conversations regularly.

Honesty: Find a quiet time to have a one-on-one conversation with a parent, sibling or child about something that reveals a money lesson you’ve learned. It takes a little vulnerability to build trust, and we all need trust before we can ever talk openly about money.

The power of vision: Pick a young family member age 8 to 13. Find out something they want that is moderately priced but that they don’t have the money to buy. Then open an online savings account in their name – but where only you have the password so they cannot access the funds. Seed the account to start and offer to match everything they save until they have the money for their purchase. Visit the account together online and watch the balance grow. Teaching someone to dream, and to put off gratification, is one of the most powerful lessons we can offer. And a simple savings account can teach it.

Mentors: Financial planners can be frustrated by clients who are unable to follow what seems like a perfect financial plan. However, it’s rarely willfulness on the part of the client. Instead, often the culprits are hidden money traumas, destructive money scripts, the inability to face financial facts without judgment and untapped financial self-control. Help a family member find the right help.

True financial well-being is different from financial wealth. And it requires the ability to talk comfortably and easily about money. This Christmas, how about taking some healthy first steps?

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