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How to Talk With Parents About Their Finances: Start With Yours

MP900382633Sometimes it’s easier to talk with aging parents about finances, when you open the discussion with your own situation. They may relax their guard in an atmosphere of mutual sharing.

Are you reluctant to talk about your parent’s finances? You’re not alone. More than a third of adult children haven’t had the money talk with parents, according to a recent study by Ameriprise Financial. However, by avoiding the topics of finances and long term goals, you may be setting yourself up for some unpleasant challenges in the future. Not surprisingly, families who talk about money feel more confident, according to the company’s Wealth Checkup study.

The Enterprise’s recent article, “Four financial questions to ask your parents,” provides some questions that can help you start the dialogue.

“What do you want to achieve in the next five or 10 years?” Understand your parents’ aspirations for the next few years. This includes their personal and financial goals and when they plan to retire (if they haven’t already). Do they want to move closer to their grandchildren or to warmer weather? Getting an idea of how they want to spend their time, will help you know what to expect in the years ahead.

“Where is your financial information located in case of an emergency?” An incident can happen at any time, so it’s essential that you know how to access key personal, financial and estate planning documents. You should have the contact info for their financial adviser, tax professional and estate planning attorney, and be sure your parents have the right permissions set, so you can step in when the need arises. You should also ask your parents to share the passwords for their primary accounts or let you know where you can find a password list.

“How do you see your legacy?” Talk to your parents about how they want to be remembered and their plans for making that happen. These components can be essential to the discussion:

  • Ask them if they have an updated will or trust, and if there’s anything they’d like to disclose about how the assets will be distributed.
  • Health care choices and expenses are often a big source of stress for retirees. Talk to your parents about their current health priorities and the future and have them formalize their wishes in a health-care directive, which lets them name a loved one to make medical decisions if they’re unable to do so.

“How can I help?” Proactively offering to help, may get rid of some of the frustrations or relieve stress for even the most independent and well-prepared parents. The assistance may be non-financial, like doing house projects or giving them more time with their grandchildren. You should also look into including an attorney in the discussion, if your parents have estate planning questions.

Talking about legacy planning and retirement on a regular, even casual, basis, can help make these topics less onerous and fraught with anxiety. Once you’ve covered the necessary information, keep talking, especially if the family experiences a major life event.

Reference: The Enterprise (August 19, 2019) “Four financial questions to ask your parents”