7 tips to help you have the money talk with your aging parents

September 6th, 2013 Kathy Cohea

Talking about financial matters is never an easy thing. And for many people, things tend to get particularly challenging when it comes time to have the money talk with aging parents.

Whether it’s the fear of facing death, an ongoing taboo that revolves around discussing finances or other family matters, many people avoid talking about money with their aging parents. Stirring up family conflict and broaching the uncomfortable topic of death with a parent will never be easy, but talking about this topic is essential.

That’s because avoiding this conversation can have serious consequences. You may suddenly be faced with financial obligations that your parents can no longer handle. Or a parent may pass away, forcing you to shoulder both emotional and financial burdens as you attempt to track down key financial documents and other key materials needed to settle the estate.

We’ve put together some tips on how to approach the “money talk” with your parents or another elderly member of your family.

Don’t delay.

While it’s easy to perpetually delay the money talk for another day, having conversations about finances will become even more difficult when you’re in the middle of a crisis. Stop avoiding the topic so you’re able to start the conversation in a non-threatening way.

Get organized.

Gather your thoughts by preparing a list of the all the topics you want to talk about. Determine what you already know and then write down the questions you have about your parent’s finances. This will give you a good roadmap of what to talk about.

Start the conversation.

Once you have done your homework and are prepared to talk, it’s time to have the conversation. Ease into the topic by starting with a non-threatening question, such as “I’m looking into getting long-term care insurance. Is that something you’ve got, too?

Set the right tone.

Instead of focusing on the grimmer aspects of these issues, emphasize the benefits and speak with compassion. Frame your conversation in terms of how you just want to make sure he or she is taken care of and that their wishes are respected. Keep in mind that, one day, your children may be having this conversation with you.

Seek out support.

Don’t feel like you have to have the money talk alone. It’s a good idea to talk with siblings and other family members and seek out their help. They may know things you don’t know and can offer support in other ways. You can also consider bringing in a neutral third party, such as a family friend, financial planner or attorney.

Listen.

Make sure you’re not having a one-sided conversation. Give the elderly family member the chance to ask questions and make their own points. This should be a two-sided conversation between adults, not a lecture.

Find a place to start.

Wrap up your conversation by identifying action items and finding benefits that everyone will see. For example, offer to take a look at your parent’s phone or cable bill to see if there is a way they could save money. Or offer to find a financial planner who might be able to help them review their estate plan or will. Finally, determine when you’re going to continue the dialogue with your parents.

While bringing up this subject now may be awkward, it will benefit both you and your parents if you ever have to step in to help them manage their finances.

Kathy Cohea

About the author

Kathy Cohea is Assistant Retail Manager at MidWestOne Bank. She helps customers with checking and savings accounts, consumer loans, auto loans and home equity loans.

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