Money Talks With Your Siblings

Solutions for handling sticky financial situations with your family.

Photo by Monika Aichele

Your brothers want to take a family cruise. Maybe you can’t shell out that kind of cash or you would rather save your money. How do you tell them that you’re not participating in the trip?

There’s no need to concoct an elaborate excuse or give details about your finances. Just say, “Unfortunately that’s not the kind of trip I can take right now,” and wish the rest of the clan well on their voyage. Then follow up with an idea for a cheaper way the family can spend time together—say, a reunion or a staycation at your home.

If making such a counteroffer feels tricky (perhaps you’re afraid of offending your brother who spent 12 hours researching cruise lines), then shift the blame. “I tell my clients to make me the bad guy,” says Nicole Francis, a New York City–based certified financial planner. “Even if you don’t have a financial planner, you can say, ‘My budget has me spending less money on vacations and more on retirement savings.’ That maneuver takes off a lot of the pressure. You’re not saying no—your budget is saying no.”