Conducting a family goals conference

If you've been reading my stuff in recent years, you know that I'm a vocal advocate for finding your purpose in life.

I believe purpose is the foundation on which all plans — financial and otherwise — ought to be built. Purpose is a compass. It helps you set big goals, sure, but it also acts as a guide when times get tough. Your mother died? Your wife left? Your husband lost his job? If you know what your primary purpose is in life, these stressful events are much easier to deal with.

To that end, I encourage readers to take the time to craft a personal mission statement. Anecdata from the folks who have actually followed through on this exercise confirms my suspicion: Doing this can be life-changing. I'm not joking.

It's one thing to have a personal mission statement, but how do you incorporate your individual goals with those of your partner? And what about your children?

Family_dinner

In Barbara Sher's Wishcraft, the author suggests conducting what she calls a “family goals conference”. What a great idea!

“This conference is meant to help you get your shared priorities straight,” writes Sher. “If you love each other, one of the things that's important is to have your partner happy. So each of you should define those areas where you're willing to compromise and the ones where you can't or won't.”

I think it'd be best if before your family goals conference, each person takes time to write out a personal mission statement. Then, when everyone is ready, come together and answer the following questions:

  • Which elements of our current lifestyle do we need? (Living space, health insurance, and — in some cities — private school might be examples.)
  • Which elements do we want? (An annual trip to the beach, pets, a color TV? These items might be adjustable, or ingenious substitutions could be found.)
  • Which elements could we do without out (or economize on)? (Our own washing machine, lots of eating out, a second car, summer camp, gym membership, YMCA.)
  • What long-term goals do we have in common? (Each other's happiness, more money, a house in the country, a trip to Europe, etc.)
  • What is each of us willing to do now to help reach those goals? (Take a part-time job, cut cable television, move to a smaller house, help with the chores, etc.)

I've never done anything like this, at least not in a formal way. When we were married, Kris and I would have occasional talks about our shared future. Today, Kim and I have those conversations too. But I've never set aside time to draw up a shared plan with a partner. But I like the idea.

Maybe the closest I've come to having a family goals conference occurred last year on my birthday. Kim and I spent the weekend at a local spa and hotel. While sitting in the hot tub, we talked about how our lives were going — and the direction we wanted to take as a couple.

At that point, we'd been back from our 15-month RV trip across the U.S. for several months. We'd had time to compare and contrast our structureless life on the road to the frenetic, chaotic, fast-paced life we'd returned to. We realized that the life we were living did not reflect our goals and values.

As a result, we decided to sell our posh condo in a nice neighborhood and look for a place in the “country”. Three months later, we had moved twenty minutes south to a smaller place on an acre of land.

What about you? Does your family ever sit down to talk about the future? Have you ever had a family goals conference? What does the process entail? Is it formalized? Just a casual conversation? What have you learned that might help others have productive conversations about the future with their spouse and children?

If you're interested in conducting a family goals conference, you might want to check out this article from Mom It Forward about creating a family mission statement.

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BusyMom
BusyMom

We have talked about some of our issues, and have decided that early retirement is the solution. However, we haven’t done an exhaustive review of our lives. Thanks for that post. I think it is time…

Dave @ Married with Money
Dave @ Married with Money

We talk about this sort of stuff all the time, but like you guys – we rarely formalize it. Probably the last time we really did have a semi-structured conversation was when I got my job offer that’d move us from CA to MN. That’s obviously a huge change, particularly because my wife’s family and friends are all out in CA. We had lots of talks about what we wanted our future to be like, the pros and cons of both the job and the move, etc. That was 2 years ago now (almost to the day actually), so this… Read more »

Teress S.
Teress S.

We don’t have a formal Mission Statement or even a Family Meeting, but priorities for spending and investing are a regular household topic of discussion. Popular topics include: “How much will we need to retire and how soon will we get to that number” (my spouse and myself); “The expected net price of different colleges” (my spouse, myself, and our eldest teen); “What size winter boots to buy in order to get at least two years of use from them” (recent conversation I had with my youngest teen). In our house, money/finance is a general topic of conversation in the… Read more »

Joe
Joe

I use my blog to communicate my goals. My wife edit all my posts so she knows what I’m thinking. If she has any problem, she lets me know. That works pretty well and we have similar goals. Our finance isn’t optimized perfectly, but it’s pretty good.

We also talk about our finance occasionally like you did.

mommato2
mommato2

It’s a good conversation to have as long as there’s nothing in there to worry the kids about (depending on their ages)…… To make a long story short, I made the mistake to discuss our financials and immediate future with the kids present and let’s just say I never did that again. Currently, DH and I discuss health expenses, retirement, income, paying off the mortgages, almost on a weekly basis. As we age and money/retirement are in the forefront of our minds, we discuss the current issues. He is the numbers guy and well, I’m just kinda there to listen.… Read more »

Sheila
Sheila

My DH and I sit down on January 1 and discuss our financial and personal goals for the year as well as where we want to travel (that makes it much more fun!). We’re already retired. This year we decided we want to stick a bit more rigorously to a budget so we plan to meet quarterly to see how we’re doing with that.

HC
HC

Okay, I feel slightly better after reading the comments from my fellow readers. We decided this autumn to sit down do a formal thing and agree on values & vision, and it was a disaster and left everyone feeling disconnected and irritated. But the reality is, for years we’ve done an end of the year review to update our coming year budget. We take time to calculate net worth, look at our savings, review insurance policies, and talk about upcoming events and activities, years and months out. Monthly, we track our spending and review it together and we plan for… Read more »

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