We just returned from celebrating my nephew’s college graduation. We had three generations together for several days of festivities.  My sister and her husband beamed as their son walked to the platform to accept his diploma.  It was fun to listen to technical language as my father, who got his engineering degree over sixty years ago, and the rest of our tribe toured the department and saw Robert’s robotics program.  My father was nothing short of elated that one of his grandchildren was carrying on his profession of choice.   I give my Dad and Mom more than a little credit for “engineering” their personal and financial life in a way that has provided his kids and grandkids with some solid values and footings.

As we see more and more, families have continuous threads of financial filament that run through their fabric of existence.  If you want to create a durable, sustainable, beautiful tapestry, there are several tools to bring to the table.

First, we need to communicate.  Generationally, discussions about money can be positive and productive.  It starts with our little ones.  We have all said it – “No, we can’t afford that” as a child laments along-side us at the store.  Yet, they see us turn around and put other items in the cart.  Instead of a mixed message, we want to plant seeds of empowerment.  We have choices over our financial decisions and we need to look how and what we are communicating.  Language such as “No, we are not buying that today because we are choosing to use our money for___.    Discussion opportunities with our elder generation also abound.  What do you want life to look like as you move into this next stage, what are your expectations of us from the financial side?  Will you need financial assistance?  How can we open up discussions about legacy planning and generational wealth transfer? How do we properly prepare beneficiaries for the responsibilities and opportunities of inheritances?

Secondly, plan, plan, plan.  Deo Volente – God willing.  We don’t know what will happen by the end of today, let alone in 10, 30, or 50 years from now.  However, we need to decide which way we are headed and make course corrections along the way to keep our trajectory on track.  We have heard the preflight safety speech, “put your own oxygen mask on before assisting others”.  What do you need to or want to do to assist other family members in a healthy way?   How do we create interdependent lives with those that are important to us, versus enabling financial behavior that is destructive?

Lastly, live in financial intentionality.  Money passes through our lives too quickly!  You can scan your phone, or press a button and never even see a dollar leave your hand. We need to consider the “opportunity cost”.  We see the cost of huge consumer debt; bankruptcies, social injustice around the world and Wall Street greed.  We need to bring integrity and intent back to our wallets – seeking to have our finances reflect what we value most in life.

My blessings abound to be part of a family that is committed to the process of financial health. We are seeking ways to find the balance, focus on the positive, set goals, have fun, pursue communication and make course corrections.  We embrace the opportunity to learn from our mistakes, and extend grace along the way.  What do you want to do to start engineering your financial future?