Every adult wants the best for their aging parents. Can they use a hand getting Mom’s car to a shop? Do they need help finding a contractor to fix a leaky roof? Should you line up grocery deliveries while Dad is recovering from surgery?
However, one topic that can be particularly difficult to broach is finances. It’s easy to see why some people may see conversations about money as being taboo. And, of course, the last thing you want is to come across as being greedy, manipulative, or disrespectful.
Still, avoiding the topic is not the answer.
Making assumptions and dancing around difficult conversations can lead to a bigger problem — not only for your parents, but for you, as well.
In this post, we offer five conversation starters that can help you open a dialogue and offer your aging parents the support they need. Choosing the right approach won’t automatically turn a tricky conversation into a walk in the park. However, it can break the ice and get the wheels turning.
Ask Them for Advice About Planning for Retirement
Everyone likes to feel valued and heard. When you invite someone to give you advice, they are likely to be less defensive. After all, your parents have been in the same shoes you are in right now: raising a family, balancing multigenerational obligations, and thinking about the future.
Start the conversation by asking questions about how they have thought about preparing for retirement. How did they choose between priorities? What obstacles did they meet? Which decisions worked out well, and which decisions, in retrospect, should have been different? This conversation can reveal areas where your involvement may be helpful.
Share a Relatable Story
Maybe you have a friend, a coworker, or a family member on your in-laws’ side that is having some financial difficulty. Or perhaps you have heard a similar story on the news. Talk about this situation with your parents. Let them know how it has affected you or what thoughts it has raised in your mind. This can be a great opener to express to them the importance of having a plan and how much you want for their circumstances to be financially secure.
Ask About Their Estate Plans
Sometimes, a conversation may begin on one topic and pivot to another. Ask your parents about their estate documents. If something were to happen, where would you find their will, trust, or advance directives? How could you make sure that their wishes are known, loud and clear?
Then, ask what would happen if one of the parents were to pass before the other. What’s the plan? Remember that this conversation doesn’t have to be all about money. A plan to support the surviving parent could include neighbors, friends, local service organizations, churches and communities, and much more. Lean into their life, their values, and what matters most to them. As this discussion continues, you may uncover the names of professionals in your parents’ life right now (as well as the need to find the ones who may be missing).
Pique Their Curiosity
Are you someone who has had some success with budgeting, investing, or deploying other financial strategies? Sharing your positive experiences in these areas might get your parents interested in learning more. It can also prompt your parents to reciprocate. You may even get asked to look at their bills, help reconcile the bank account, or get your financial advisor to offer a second opinion on their investments!
When the Time Is Right, Be Direct
Depending on your relationship with your parents, there may be no need to beat around the bush. Or perhaps your parent has received a tough diagnosis, like Alzheimer’s, which turns up the time urgency of the money talk. And, if you have decided to have a direct conversation, make sure that you position it properly. Remind them that your end goal is to see them happy and thriving — and to remove what burdens you can from their plate.
When and How to Have the Money Talk
Money conversations typically go best when they happen in private. For most families, it is best to not bring it up around holidays, when there are distractions (like young children), or when other people are around who don’t need to be involved.
It can be helpful to get all the siblings on the same page ahead of time. We understand that sometimes, that is not logistically possible. If that is the case, it may be best to elect a delegate to take the initiative.
Finally, consider raising the subject on your parents’ territory or on a neutral ground, like during a walk in the park. Do your best to keep it casual, especially if there is no true urgency to the situation. And do prepare to be patient; many families find that the money conversation has layers and takes multiple rounds.
How to Talk to Your Aging Parents About Money
We all want the best for our parents. Sometimes, they may need your help more than you might realize. Just like dealing with a medical issue, the earlier you can find a problem, the sooner you can work together to do something about it. Make it clear that you want to help them and work alongside with them — not swoop in and take over. Your parents may be sensitive about their declining ability. They may feel shame, or they may worry that things that used to be easy are now much more difficult. It is wise to respect that and honor the starting point of this difficult conversation, no matter what it looks like.
If you need help talking with your aging parents about money, schedule an appointment with a member of the SYM Financial team today.
Disclosure: The opinions expressed herein are those of SYM Financial Corporation (“SYM”) and are subject to change without notice. This material is not financial advice or an offer to sell any product. SYM reserves the right to modify its current investment strategies and techniques based on changing market dynamics or client needs. Information was obtained from third party sources which we believe to be reliable but are not guaranteed as to their accuracy or completeness. SYM is an independent investment adviser registered under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, as amended. Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training. More information about SYM including our investment strategies, fees, and objectives can be found in our ADV Part 2, which is available upon request.