Memo to the Trustee: how to talk about money

Memo to the Trustee: how to talk about money

By Daniel P. Felix, J.D., The Professional Trustee

Money is such a charged issue – and most of us have a range of different charges or emotions about it. This also applies to our trust beneficiaries, perhaps especially those who have come into their money through inheritance. This population may be particularly sensitive to money – and to money conversations – due to being inexperienced at money management or ambivalent about their inheritance and being wealthy, to name just a few possible reasons.

Fortunately, there is some great advice available on how to work sensitively and powerfully around money discussions with such scions of wealth.

In fact, one of the gems at John A. Warnick’s Purposeful Planning Rendezvous in Denver last month was offered by the team of Jamie Traeger-Muney and Emily Bouchard, the principals of The Wealth Legacy Group, who, as experts in the emotional impact of wealth, have developed valuable insights on this subject.

Jamie & Emily’s tips on how to have sensitive and powerful conversations about money – especially with those who may be new to such conversations – include:

o Contextualize money with a story as opposed to just throwing around various figures or spreadsheets. Listening to someone about what it means to them and how it got there can give some handles for the discussion.

o Also, identify context in the role that you are referencing for them – so, “as a business owner,…” or “as a parent,….”
This helps them be clear about which of the sometimes many hats they are wearing in the situation. Do you know the joke about the father/boss firing his son out of the family business?

o Among other communication practices:
o Ask questions to elicit their story and enhance their learning and understanding.
o Mirror or reflect back their key points.
o If emotions arise, help them understand those emotions are normal and understandable, and that there’s nothing wrong with them.
o Help them to ask their own questions by demonstrating that all questions are welcome.
o Work together with the client to develop best practices for the advisor relationship. This is key in arguably every professional relationship: coming to consensus around what will be acceptable, unacceptable, as well as outstanding service.

Jamie & Emily also suggest that the trustee consider becoming versed in the typical archetypal patterns around money, as this approach opens up new possibilities for effective conversations related to money. In their experience, the top eight with a few of some of their possible attributes are:

The Innocent: who can be trusting, happy on the outside while fearful internally;

The Victim: prone to blaming, highly emotional, shares with the Innocent a feeling of powerfulness;

The Warrior: powerful, driven, competitive;

The Martyr: Manipulative, long suffering, secretive;

The Fool: undisciplined, irresponsible, overly generous;

The Creator/Artist: passive, internally motivated, non-materialistic;

The Tyrant: controlling, fearful, oppressive, highly critical and judgmental, secretive;

The Magician: spiritual, wise, powerful, fluid, confident.

They have a simple tool that can be used easily to assess how clients tend to approach (or avoid) money in their lives.

For more information about “money types” and how to use them effectively, they’ve graciously offered a free mini-training including the assessment tool for the first 50 people who contact them via Emily:

As the Professional Trustee, Daniel P. Felix has been serving clients for almost 20 years. His approach is to honor the grantor, while empowering the beneficiary. He is also actively involved in articulating and applying best practices. Dan is also principal and founder of Lawyers Connecting™ a networking and professional growth group for attorneys.

He can be reached at:

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