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How to Talk with Aging Parents about Money: Not Easy, but Necessary

MP900422581You’ll want to have some serious conversations with aging parents, especially if they have lean retirement budgets, to preclude late-in-life problems.

The good news: Americans are living longer. The bad news: as they age, the possibility of spending down a lifetime of savings, falling victim to fraud or developing dementia puts aging parents at financial risk. That could cast quite a dark shadow on the family as the years go by.

Bureau County Republican’s recently published article, “Three ways to talk with aging parents about finances,” says that these longer lives of parents can leave adult children confused as to when and whether to intervene and monitor their parents’ money. This type of conversation isn’t an easy one because there are stubborn parents who refuse to discuss their money. That said, there aren’t too many adult children in a big rush to broach the subject either. They have their own feelings of discomfort and delay the subject. However, when there is a crisis, the children are left with no idea of their parents’ savings or where to find critical documents.

Speaking of critical, these discussions are necessary so the children have the ability to gather information about their parent’s income and expenses, know where legal documents are located, and understand what kind of medical or long-term-care insurance the parents have. The approach to the subject is often the key to success in these conversations. To help with this task, here are a few tips on how to approach the subject and make it easier for everyone:

Select a date for the talk. Set an appointment for yourself to broach the subject at a specific time. Maybe it’s after a birthday, a family event, or a holiday where other family members are present who will help with the responsibility for the aging parents in the future.

Show respect. Let your parents know that you understand and respect their reluctance to open up about their finances. Try to make the conversation about you instead of them. Tell them that you’re worried that if anything went wrong, you’d be totally lost as to how to help them.

Address fears honestly. Let the parents know that you understand their concerns about discussing their finances and that their independence might be stripped from them. You could tell them that it’s your goal to see them keep their independence as long as possible … and that you’re willing to help them, but you can’t help without information.

This is not an easy process, especially if your parents never discussed family finances. However, by taking a respectful approach that gives parents time to get used to the concept of having these discussions, they’ll be more comfortable. If it becomes an impossible task, consider bringing in a trusted family friend or an elder law attorney, who might help aging parents better understand the reasons for the discussion.

Reference: Bureau County (IL) Republican (December 23, 2016) “Three ways to talk with aging parents about finances”

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