Money Talks With Your Parents

Solutions for dealing with three sticky financial situations.

Photo by Monika Aichele

Your folks ask nosy questions about how much your new house cost or whether you can afford such an expensive car. How do you respond?

If you wish to give this information to your parents, do it. Maybe you want to reassure them of your financial stability or merely share the details of your life. But if such queries press your buttons or make you feel defensive, go ahead and keep those dollar figures to yourself. “Moms and dads are bound to ask about what’s going on in your life and offer advice,” says Stephen Betchen, a marriage and family therapist in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and the author of Magnetic Partners ($19, “You don’t have to listen, but their job as parents is to help steer you away from disaster. So they may get anxious when you’re in a high-stakes situation, such as buying a house.”

Says Catherine Newman, Real Simple’s etiquette columnist: “If your mom mentions that you’re spending a lot of money, simply reply, ‘Oh, it feels so good to have a little money right now to buy the things I really want,’ which makes the point that you can afford the splurge in question.” Or, if your financial situation is more precarious, you can direct the conversation to the ways in which your new house or car is a wise financial investment: “By buying a crossover, we won’t have to get a bigger car in a few years when we have your second grandchild.” Conclude by “thanking your parents for their concern—and reminding them that you were raised well and that making your own decisions is part of being an adult,” says Betchen. That’s a respectful way of saying, “Next subject, please.”