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President's Blog

The Kitchen Dance

Recently, a colleague and I conducted a small family meeting in a client’s home. The meeting included the mom and dad with their two adult children. Since we were in the beginning phases of the family meeting process, spouses and significant others did not attend.

As the meeting began, we asked the adult children what they were thinking and feeling. While we gave them an idea that the meeting would entail an overview of the family’s finances, we did not go into specifics. The siblings said – in different ways – that they are very intimidated by financial discussions. The topic is complex, and they do not feel comfortable talking about finances as a family. We assured them that their reaction was perfectly normal. As we carried on, they began to participate in the ensuing conversation.

We were invited to stay for dinner that evening and knowing that this is a family with several great cooks, we were happy to say yes. As we sat and watched the family work together to prepare and serve the meal, I was struck by the ease and fluidity of their conversation and movement in the kitchen. One person finished another’s sentence, family members moved gracefully around one another to pull out ingredients, move things in and out of the oven, and set the table. The meal was incredible, to be sure, but it was the preparation process I recall the most.

I kept asking myself how they achieved such grace and ease in this “kitchen dance?” It was clearly more than instinct – it involved lots of repetition and practice. And that kept taking me back to the earlier financial meeting. Couldn’t any family benefit from practice – at any level – talking about finances and making decisions as a family? They might never find the same passion for finance as they do for food, but the principle seems to work. Finding creative, practical ways to exercise those financial muscles is bound to pay off for any family.