Having the “Money Talk” with Your Elder Parents
Guest article by Emily Lutz
Talking to your aging parents about money isn’t easy. If you feel uncomfortable or intimidated by it, you’re not alone. Whether you’re facing heavy resistance or a bit of anxiety before you bring up the topic, the following steps will help you have the “money talk” with your parents.
Start with General Questions
Instead of opening with direct questions, begin by asking your parents about general topics. For example, if you are worried about their financial situation and the amount of money they have saved for retirement, ask about their plans for retirement. If they are worried about having enough money in retirement, you’ll likely learn about it soon enough.
Use Your Own Situation
Use your own life as an example. Talk about what you’ve done to encourage your parents to open up about their situation. Mention steps you’ve taken to get your finances in order: drafting a will, creating a list of accounts and passwords for your spouse or partner if something were to happen to you, or updating your beneficiary information on all your accounts. Make sure you talk about what you gained by taking these steps, so they see the benefits. Then transition your story into a question: Mom/Dad, have you done something similar?
Offer General Help
Ask your parents if there’s anything you can do to help make their lives easier. Pick a task that’s generally unpleasant, like tax preparation. They may accept your offer.
Talk about Your Financial Adviser or Attorney
Tell your parents that you are working with a financial planner or other professional who is starting to ask you questions about your own retirement and estate plan. Explain that this process got you thinking about the subject. Add that you wanted to be sure they were getting the help they need.
Focus on Family
Most parents care about providing for their children and grandchildren even after they pass away. Preface your questions by explaining the need for proper estate planning. Everything they’ve worked hard for could be taxed in ways they didn’t expect or be taken from the family in certain situations.
This gives you an opportunity to ask specific questions. Do you have a will? Do you have an up-to-date durable power of attorney? Are you working with a financial planner or other professionals I should know about?
Leave Them in Charge
When you bring up sensitive financial subjects with your elderly parents, be clear that you are only interested in helping them plan and organize according to their wishes.
Choose a Comfortable Setting for Them
Try to have these conversations in a place where your parents will be most at ease, such as their own home. You want them to feel safe and relaxed in the conversation, not cornered or threatened.
Don’t Tackle Everything at Once
Before you begin this conversation, accept that you can’t predict exactly how it will go. You might start with a checklist of topics to discuss. However, trying to force the issue could do more harm than good. Focus on making progress in the conversation. Be flexible with how much you get through in any one sitting.
Work with a Professional
Finally, if your parents are unwilling to discuss their finances and estate planning with you, suggest that they meet with a financial planner or an elder law attorney. Working with a professional will ensure they’re taking steps to get their estate plans in place. In many cases, these professionals will suggest that your parents should share information with you about these topics.
The steps above should help you feel more confident starting the “money talk” with your parents. The sooner you broach the subject, the better. Set a goal with a deadline and use one of the tactics above that seems most comfortable to get the conversation started.
Emily Lutz is a certified Daily Money Manager (DMM) and founder of Liberty Paperwork Solutions. She began working in daily money management after seeing her own grandmother struggle with the stress of day-to-day paperwork. Now, she focuses on helping elders and their caregivers. Her professional background includes 10 years on Wall Street, most recently as an Assistant VP at BNP Paribas.