Wednesday, October 30, 2013

THE M WORD: The Money Talk Every Family Needs To Have About Wealth And Their Financial Future, by Lori R. Sackler

The Money Talk
Author: Lori R. Sackler, Toddi Gutner
Released Date: February 19, 2013
Published by McGraw-Hill
Genre: non-fiction, self-help, guide, psychology, business
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
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"We confess everything else in our society—sex, crime, illness. But no one wants to reveal  what they earn and how they got it.” - Barbara Ehrenreich

In our tightly interconnected social media culture, where nearly everybody tweets, instagrams, and posts what they eat, drink and wear, very few things are still a taboo. Money is one of them.  It amazes how we are always ready to share connections, selfies, pictures of kids and pets with our Facebook ‘friends’, while within our own very  families some subjects are still a thorny and difficult issue. The M word is a regular source of conflict and mystery: the money talk every family should have about wealth and their financial future is one of the most persistently avoided topic of conversation between spouses, parents and their children.

Lack of communication is a pathology of its own and, unfortunately, more problems stem from it. Where there is lack of communication, in fact, poor or non-existent financial planning will ensue, creating the basis for a disruption of family bonds and relationships. Lack of trust and honesty about money can be the mirror of a fundamental lack of honesty between partners: lies or hidden truths about the cost of a new wardrobe, vacations, purchases of electronic gadgets, as well as the state of personal finances before and during the marriage, is an alarming sign. And this is not all. There are several reasons why family members do not communicate enough about their financial health: beside the most basic elements of control and trust, some less obvious factors (gender, age, cultural/social traits, anthropological/instinctual, psychological, and even neurological  issues) need to be addressed and overcome. 

It was interesting to read how the epitome of the material world has a deep and strong connection with our emotional world. That connection explains why sometimes talking about wealth, or lack of it, is so painful. 

According to the evolutionary perspective of clinical and organizational psychologist Dr. Hendric Weisinger, “humans have been hardwired to see money as an object of threat and control, and the conversation is difficult because it is tied to the sexual exchanges that were part of money transfers in primitive societies.”  In this light, we tend to consider money as an extremely intimate and embarrassing topic and, consequently, we try to avoid it. From a psychological standpoint, “money is tied up with our personal sense of self-esteem, self-worth, and even familial love.” When we use money as a control mechanism or a way to show familial love, an unequal distribution of it (through gifts and inheritances) can cause dramatic psychological fallouts. Unfortunately, many of us will associate a social stigma with a change in financial circumstances. Loss of self-esteem weighs in when we are not able to maintain our former life-style. Historically, the Founding Fathers of America brought with them the belief typical of the British society who considered the 'money talk' vulgar and impolite, a belief apparently still existing and hindering a full disclosure of financial matters. The author goes on exploring also a set of neurological and gender factors that might explain the way we handle and talk about money: our brain and  gender play a role in the economic decisions we make on a daily basis. “Men are typically more focused on the bottom line of an investment and less interested in the long-term goals of providing for security of the family  and the community.  […] women typically focus on long-term rather than short-term gains and have a greater commitment to planning around children and life events.” Interestingly, generational differences between baby boomers and new millennials affect not only our 'money-style', but also our philanthropic desicions and our motivations for charitable giving.

The 'money talk' is important and emotionally charged, now more than ever before. We are experiencing the worst economic downturn since The Great Depression. Changes in the  financial circumstances of several families, misalignment between incomes and expenses are at the roots of anxiety problems that will inevitably reverberate from a generation of adults to their children. Unfortunately, in the face of uncertainty and concerns for the future of our kids, we tend to shut down emotionally and avoid the conversation, tout court.

As if the thought of investment strategies, allowances for kids, family budget and cash flow, college funding, medical insurance, health issues and retirement were not enough to give your head a good spin, financial planning becomes a mind-boggling business when some major life changes happen and catch us unprepared. Death of a family member, a divorce, remarriage, extended families, a health challenge, new living and household arrangements can trigger emotional upheavals and a sense of loss—not a good premise for carefully crafted decisions.

The goal of The M Word is to show that, if communication and trust are part of the family culture, dispassionate and intelligent choices can be made during life transitions that involve money.  Lori R.  Sackler, a financial advisor and Senior Vice President of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, leads a team (the Sackler Group) dedicated to successfully guiding individuals and families through life’s transitions. Sackler, creator and former host of the radio show The M Word, pairs her personal experience as a counselor with the knowledge gathered during over three years of discussions and interviews. The problem is common among high-net-worth families as well as low-income ones, each with their unique sets of conflicts. Drawing from a plethora of real-life examples,  Sackler’s book offers an insightful and useful management guidance to families and individuals facing  different financial challenges.

***Review copy graciously offered by the publicist in return for an unbiased and honest opinion



  1. Very Interesting post Mina! It is shockingly true - We all avoid the M word!

    Chanzie @ Mean Who You Are.

    1. A very interesting book, Chene. I had never considered the tight connection between material wealth and emotional world. Maybe because I have always been happy with little. Thank you for visiting! Always a pleasure to see you :)