Five Strategies for Talking to Senior Parents About Money
Money and financial planning are sensitive topics. You don’t discuss money at work, you don’t talk about your mortgage with friends, and you certainly don’t ask your aging parents what’s in their savings account. They likely grew up in a family where money wasn’t openly discussed. Their pride, privacy, and sense of independence may also be strong factors.
However, understanding your aging parents’ finances will give you both peace of mind. During discussions with our residents’ family members, one of our Social Workers, Pat Tomczyk, often hears how lucky the family members feel when their mom or dad are receptive to having “The Money Talk”. It is even better when family members can talk about financial matters well before they need help with money or assistance with applying to a assisted living community.
When you’re ready, here are five strategies to guide the money conversation.
- Have your own finances in order & use yourself as the icebreaker.
To lead into the conversation, let your parents know that you’re proactive about your finances too. You wouldn’t ask them to do something that you don’t. Share that you have a good grasp on your finances and have your important documents in place, as well. Explain what steps you’ve taken and why it’s helped you feel stable.
- Be clear about the benefits of sharing financial information
Let your parents know the reasons you’re interested in getting this sorted out. Above all, it’s because you love them. You’re not trying to meddle in their finances to be nosy, you want them to be as independent as possible but want to be able to understand their situation and respect their wishes if you ever were called upon to help. Additionally, this will help them gain control over their life! Money really does matter when it comes to their options for health care, housing, lifestyle, etc… It will help them immensely to have a firm grasp of their financial situation and what they can afford in the good times and in the hard ones.
- Plan ahead to cover the details, not just broad topics.
As uncomfortable as it may be to talk about financial details, be sure to cover it all. Remember to discuss important documents (power of attorneys, insurance, updated wills, etc.), as well as financial accounts. Create a checklist ahead of time of the topics to cover. Plan the get-together at a time when nobody will be rushed or have other stressful things on their minds.
An article on usnews.com stated, “Fidelity found that parents and adult children generally report feeling comfortable starting conversations with each other about spending, budgeting and long-term saving and investing. The details, though, are the challenging part. Essential conversation topics include the specifics of parents’ preparedness for handling their retirement costs. If their savings are below their target for their retirement nest egg, it’s a good time to figure out a new spending plan and shore up savings now. . . End-of-life medical care, estate plans, wills and a health care proxy are also important parts of the conversation.”
- Be prepared to step up to help if needed.
Has it become apparent that mom and dad could use help paying bills? Can you help them set up an auto-pay plan? Do they need to track down where all of their accounts are? Offer to help, explain why it’s important, and follow through.
- Plan a follow-up conversation.
Perhaps the first meeting has produced a to-do list of things to follow up on. Set a date for when you’ll gather again to finalize those items. When you feel that everything is sorted out, plan a regular follow up, perhaps annually. Finances, insurance, wills – these things are ever changing and you’ll want to be sure to have the correct updates when things renew or change.
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