Family Reunion Faux Pas: 5 Topics to Avoid

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Chew with your mouth closed. Keep your elbows off the table. And don’t talk about politics, religion or money at family get-togethers.

Even though we all know these unspoken rules, they’re hard to follow—especially the one about money.

Family reunion season is here, and with it comes the opportunity for many an awkward conversation. So what do you do if you find yourself in the middle of one while chowing down on Aunt Edna’s famous potato salad?

We’re here to help. These are the five topics of conversation to watch out for during family reunion season:

1. “Dave Ramsey Says . . . ”

We know you’re excited about getting out of debt. We’re excited for you! But the quickest way to turn someone off of a great plan is to beat them over the head with it. If you’ve been living and spending differently, your family will notice. There’s no need to drown them with Davisms at the picnic table.  

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When they’re sick and tired of being broke, they’ll ask for the details. Until then, don’t nitpick every financial mistake they’ve ever made. We know you just want to help, but criticizing them will only make them resent you—and the Baby Steps—even more. Remember, you can’t make someone change their mind. Here are six reasons why people choose to stay in debt.

Find a way to be positive about your situation, without being negative about theirs.

2. Big Purchases

If you’re doing well financially, that’s great! Just be careful not to go on and on about your new car or your discount cruise to Alaska. No one likes a showoff.

That doesn’t mean you have to apologize for your success. But don’t throw your purchases in the faces of family members who aren’t there yet. If they want to know how you saved up for that luxury car or how you scored such a great vacation deal, tell them in a one-on-one setting later.

Who knows? It may just be the motivation they need to begin down their own road to financial peace.

Related: 15 Insider Tips for Your Next Debt-Free Vacation

3. Money Troubles

Without fail, your little brother always finds a way to complain about his low-paying job, his overdue credit card bills and his expensive divorce. This is not a pity party! This is a G-rated family reunion!

So before his whining session begins, head him off with an act of kindness. Why not offer to send his résumé to a few friends or to pay his way through a Financial Peace University class?

Hopefully, your pre-meal gesture will leave him feeling blessed and much less likely to complain during dinner.

4. Personal Loans

Your crazy Aunt Beth shamelessly asks you for a loan every single year. Forget that she already owes you for her cat’s emergency surgery last summer.

Family loans are a bad idea. If Auntie B is going through a legitimate rough patch (and you have the cash to help her out), give her the money as a gift. But don’t expect anything in return.

And if you’ve already messed up and loaned her money in the past, consider writing it off and then politely telling her your banking days are over. Just do this in private, as there’s no need to embarrass her in front of the whole family—even if she brings it up.

Related: 4 Land Mines to Avoid If Your Parents Have Money Struggles

5. Business Opportunities

Everyone has a shady Cousin Phil. You know the one. He knows a guy who knows an investor who knows about a hot, new startup looking for some business-minded folks to “get in on the ground floor.” And it’ll only cost you $5,000. What a deal!

There’s usually not a lot of reasoning with the Phils of the world. There’s just avoidance—and changing the subject. What else does he like? Cars? Football? Bass fishing? Have a go-to subject ready to distract him until everyone has finished dessert and started picking teams for the annual volleyball game.

Then get far away from Phil—until next year’s reunion anyway.

Your family members have worked hard to prepare a memorable reunion for you and yours, and they want everyone to enjoy themselves. So follow these tips and don’t be the one to spoil your family get-together with uncomfortable money conversations.

Let Dave do the money talking this year for you. Give your family members a copy of The Total Money Makeover!

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