Last week, I, like millions of other Americans, celebrated one of our most cherished holidays: Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a holiday of traditions going back to our earliest days as an English settlement, up until its official federal status and what it represents today. It’s a time for people to enjoy days off work; watch a football game, a classic holiday movie, or a parade; and most importantly, have a meal with family and loved ones where we reflect on the things we are thankful for. Unfortunately, many people are moving away from the basic intent of this all-inclusive holiday.
It’s a frequent joke that Thanksgiving dinner has become just a battleground for arguments among family members who don’t see each other often.
Some people want to skip it all together. International market research firm One Poll surveyed 2,000 Americans between ages 18 and 38 about their Thanksgiving attitudes. This recent study found that 58 percent would rather have a “friends-giving” than a Thanksgiving with their family.
I don’t want to completely discount evolving societal conventions, but I think it is a mistake to throw out familial traditions, especially traditions that keep family members connected. Talking to your uncle with whom you rarely speak with allows you to form a relationship and a wider understanding of your family—and more importantly, yourself. Even if you don’t get along with him, you can gain a deeper sense of the wider scope of your origins. These kinds of family connections allow for a strengthening of generational bonds and family history.
Thanksgiving traditions represent more than Thanksgiving. They represent family legacy.
Cultural heritage can exist in shared recipes passed down from generation to generation. Whether it is creating a family spin on a staple such as pumpkin pie or always serving a dish from outside the usual roster of Thanksgiving eats, passing on these recipes can be a form of building a living family legacy.
And legacy is something that you can’t put a price tag on. However, while many Americans may want to leave a financial legacy, talking about finances with your family can be difficult.
A recent study by TD Ameritrade found that Americans are less comfortable discussing money with their family than religion, politics, or health issues.
The awkwardness of Thanksgiving dinner conversation is difficult to cut through. Sometimes it is necessary to overcome this hurdle. Important issues don’t go away just because you ignore them, especially financial issues.
And perhaps planning for the longevity of your family’s future may not be Thanksgiving conversation. But the mere act of engaging in open and honest conversation can establish a level of comfort and ease that can be the groundwork for more specific conversations about life planning in the future.
It’s areas like these where following tradition can lend strength. Sometimes, something as simple as a meal can form the backbone of a larger plan. Financial planning can also rely on tradition for long-term security. When you think of where your assets may be put to work in the future, perhaps looking to traditions of the past could help.