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"I am thrilled to be interviewed and talk to women everywhere about their relationship with money, how to maximize their financial power, and what it means to plan for the future," insists Rita Cheng, CFP® Pro.


Celebrate Financial Literacy Month with Marguerita Cheng, CFP® Pro — who talks candidly about Women + Money

Note from Hope Katz Gibbs & Cynthia de Lorenzi, authors, Your 2021 What’s Next JournalIt’s tax time, and there’s no better month than to get intimate with your emotions about money. We couldn’t think of a better professional to turn to for insight and advice than Marguerita Cheng, CFP®, the CEO of Blue Ocean Global Wealth. We’ve invited her to be the April 2021 cover girl for Your What’s Next Journal, and when you read below and hear her What’s Next forecasts, you’ll know why! Here’s to your financial health!

By Marguerita Cheng, CFP® • CEO, Blue Ocean Global Wealth.

Politics, religion, or money: which topic would you rather broach with family and friends? If you chose politics or religion over money, you’re not alone. According to wealth psychology expert Kathleen Burns Kingsbury, 44 percent of Americans believe the most difficult conversation is the personal financial situation. In fact, many people would rather discuss politics, religion, or death with their families over the dreaded ‘money talk.’

Given the current political, religious, and technological climate we live in, this statistic is quite telling. We understand money conversations can be hard for several reasons. For starters, you may view your financial situation as a personal matter that shouldn’t be discussed with family or friends, you may be uncomfortable disclosing such personal information, or you may be wary of sharing your current financial situation in the fear that you will be judged, either by the amount of money you have or the amount of debt you have.

However, this Financial Literacy Month, challenge yourself to initiate these sometimes difficult but always important financial conversations. Understanding your financial situation and improving your financial literacy will help you and your loved ones plan for the future. While some of this will involve addressing unpleasant topics like long-term care and life insurance, you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared so that the financial implications are not a burden on your family when the time comes.

You may not have all the answers to life’s milestones and financial situations right now. Still, financial advisors are a great resource to increase your financial literacy by better understanding your financial situation and guide you in tackling the following taboo money topics with your family.

Tough Topics of Money Conversations

Student loans: Recent graduates may feel ashamed to talk about the debt they accrued in college since they have not had as much opportunity to make a dent in the amount they owe. However, keep in mind that Americans owe over $1.48 trillion in student loan debt, spread out among 44 million borrows. According to Student Loan Hero, that’s more than $620 billion more than the total U.S. credit card debt. This is nothing to be ashamed of since over 44 million Americans are in the same boat. By understanding how much you owe and the steps it will take to pay off your debt, you’ll be able to create a plan to pay down your debt that aligns with your current financial situation and will help you tackle saving for the future.

College: According to College Data, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2017–2018 school year was $34,740 at private colleges, $9,970 for state residents at public colleges, and $25,620 for out-of-state residents attending public universities – and the average cost is only going to rise.
If you have a child, or two, who are planning on attending college, it is never too early to discuss how your family plans to cover the cost of tuition. Remember: you aren’t failing as a parent if you can’t afford to pay for your child’s full tuition! Parents don’t have to be the sole contributors to college savings. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and even the kids themselves can contribute any amount of money to a 529 college savings account. Every dollar saved is one less borrowed. Save your family the added stress of tackling the tuition bill all at once by having these conversations early.

Weddings: The Knot’s Real Weddings Study tells us that the national average cost is $33,391. If you have a daughter and would like to pay for some or all of her wedding, make sure you’re transparent about the amount you have saved specifically for this purpose. It may be uncomfortable, but wedding planning can be stressful, and being honest about financial circumstances from the beginning will save you from overspending on the big day.

Life insurance: Life insurance can be tricky to bring up with your parents since the conversation may seem morbid and uncomfortable. The fact of the matter is, you need to discuss this subject with your family, especially aging parents, because we all need life insurance to protect our family from taking on any of our own personal debt once you die. By knowing your life insurance policy, families can be better prepared should an unexpected death occur.

Long-term care: Oftentimes, we avoid this topic because we don’t want to think about getting older or address the topic of our older parents leaving home to live in a retirement facility. It would be best if you had these conversations about their long-term care wishes early on to avoid children from being burdened by the costs of their parents’ long-term care and preparing your family for the future better. By taking a proactive approach, you will have more independence, choice, and control in the long run.

Best Practices for Having Money Talks

  • How do you know when the best time is to have financial conversations with your family? There may never be the perfect moment, but there are better timing options like avoiding the subject during high-stress periods.
  • Once you have initiated the conversation, be intentional about your goals of the conversation. Whether you’re talking to your child about paying for college or deciding the best long-term care options for your aging parents, prepare talking points about what you want to cover to keep yourself on track. And try to avoid outside distractions such as crying children, television, tablets, or cell phones so the group can tackle the topic at hand.
  • Understand you’re dealing with other people who may not have had the time to prepare like you have, so use empathy and approach the situation delicately. Parents and older relatives want to feel like they have a say in the matter, especially in estate planning and their end-of-life decisions. Let the loved one know you want to be aware of their wishes so that everyone can be better prepared. It is also important to accept that you may disagree with their decision, but the most important matter is beginning the discussion.
  • If things get particularly heated, take a break and come back together later. It is always better to take a minute to gather thoughts and reflect on the conversation, rather than saying something you might regret in the heat of the moment. No one wants to feel attacked while having financial conversations.
  • At the end of the conversation, summarize what you discussed and confirm with your loved ones that everyone is on the same page. Maybe you write down key takeaways or develop a plan for paying off debt. Either way, everyone should leave the conversation feeling like the group’s financial knowledge and awareness improved.

Remember, financial literacy involves making prudent money decisions. Still, we won’t be able to make educated moves when saving, spending, borrowing, investing, or donating money if we don’t have all the necessary information and don’t involve others in the conversation.

When Financial Literacy Month comes to an end — don’t stop talking about these important financial topics. Conversations should continue throughout the year. Always remember that you don’t have to go about these conversations alone. A CFP® professional can be a great resource to help navigate the waters before you have those tough conversations. They can help you understand your financial situation, prepare for your future finances, and understand the available options for you and your family.

Marguerita M. Cheng: The founder and Chief Executive Officer of Blue Ocean Global Wealth is a regular columnist for Investopedia & Kiplinger and has worked as a spokesperson for the AARP Financial Freedom Campaign. Before launching her firm in September 2014, she was a Financial Advisor at Ameriprise Financial and an analyst and editor at Towa Securities in Tokyo, Japan.

She won the Ameriprise Financial Presidential Award for Quality of Advice and the prestigious Japanese Monbukagakusho Scholarship. In 2017, she was named the #3 Most Influential Financial Advisor in the Investopedia Top 100, a Woman to Watch by InvestmentNews, and a Top 100 Minority Business Enterprise (MBE®) by the Capital Region Minority Supplier Development Council (CRMSDC).

Marguerita’s certifications include CFP® professional, Chartered Retirement Planning CounselorSM, Retirement Income Certified Professional®, and a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst. As a Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (CFP Board) Ambassador, Marguerita helps educate the public, policymakers, and media about the benefits of competent, ethical financial planning. She serves as a Women’s Initiative (WIN) Advocate and subject matter expert for CFP Board, contributing to the development of examination questions for the CFP® Certification Examination.

She volunteers for several organizations, including CFP Board Disciplinary and Ethics Commission (DEC) hearings; she has also served on the Financial Planning Association (FPA) National Board of Directors from 2013-2015 and is a past president of the Financial Planning Association of the National Capital Area (FPA NCA). Click here to learn more about Blue Ocean Global Wealth.

Thoughts, questions? Click here to contact Marguerita today.