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Does this awkward conversation sound familiar?

You bring up some financial issue you’ve been grappling with lately to an older friend or family member. Maybe you want to get it off your chest. Maybe you’d like a little bit of emotional support. Maybe you’re just making small talk. Whatever the reason, you regret the decision immediately. Why? Because instead of getting some helpful tips or even a little bit of sympathy, you get an earful about all the things inherently flawed with how your entire generation manages their financial lives.

An enormous generation gap exists in the financial mind these days and it needs to be addressed.

Older people don’t understand why younger people can’t get it together. “Why can’t they just settle down, buy a house, and stick with their job?”

Younger people feel like their parents and grandparents don’t understand the daily struggle. “It must have been nice back in the old days. They came right out of college, with little debt, and snagged the first high-paying job they came across, with full benefits packages and healthcare completely paid for.”

These types of off handed comments and stressful discussions are counterproductive to everyone involved. It’s causing younger people to shy away from asking for advice and learning valuable financial lessons from their elders. The reality is, more often than not, the older generations made plenty of financial mistakes (most people do) and learned quite a bit in the process. Being able to pass that knowledge along to others, in a nonjudgmental way, is important so those mistakes are not repeated.

At the same time, there are countless ways to handle daily financial needs. There are also all types of goals which are immensely important to some people and seem totally ridiculous to others. And that’s perfectly okay!

Rather than make assumptions based on age, why not be open minded and listen to what’s really happening in that specific person’s life at the moment? When somebody is struggling with a financial situation, it’s very real for them and can cause a lot of anxiety and stress. Having someone who’s a sympathetic listener can be immensely helpful and comforting, even if that person doesn’t fully understand because he or she would have done things differently.

Let’s work a little bit on keeping conversations about money between the generations more about passing on worldly knowledge, experiences, and advice, and a little less about finger pointing and generalizing. If we can do that, we will all be in a healthier and happier place in our financial minds.

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