How to Talk to Your Aging Parents About Money
Use These Tips to Better Communicate About This Important Topic| By: Randall E. White, CFP®, RICP®, CRPC®, CMFC®
It’s normal for your relationship with your parents to change as they age. Perhaps you’re finding yourself helping them out more around the house or assisting them in getting to and from doctors’ appointments and staying on top of their medicine. Like many people, you may even find yourself taking a larger role in helping them manage their finances. As you step further into this caretaker role, it’s common to struggle with how to talk to your aging parents about money.
This reversal of roles in the parent-child relationship can be difficult to adjust to. Adult children may be nervous about appearing greedy or overbearing by asking too many questions about money, and aging parents might be hesitant to admit that they need help as their health declines. Despite the tension that may come along with these kinds of conversations, talking to your aging parents about their finances and helping them plan for the future can save your family time, money, and stress.
Here are a few tips to help you get the conversations started.
Set Your Intentions Early On
Talking with your parents about their financial situation and estate plans can bring about heightened emotions. Before beginning the conversation, take the time you need to process your personal emotions on the matter so that you can enter the conversation with a clear head. Whatever emotions you’re struggling with, know that it’s normal to feel negative or to struggle with your emotions as your parent's age. By accepting difficult feelings up front, you’ll be able to keep better control over them when it comes time to begin having conversations.
Choose the Right Time and Place
It may be tempting to initiate a conversation with your parents during the holidays or a family dinner where everyone is together, but try to find a quieter time instead. You don’t want to have a lot of distractions around when you begin discussing these critically important issues. And while you may be ready right away, keep in mind that your parents may need time to adjust to the idea of having these conversations, so try to give them some notice so that they can prepare for the discussion as well.
If you have concerns to bring up with your parents, be sure to be specific. Go into the conversation with a list of any questions or worries you have that you’d like to go over with your parents. This could be concerns you have about their estate plans, worries about any vulnerabilities they may have, or questions about what they want out of their healthcare plan. Be sure to frame your concerns with compassion and understanding and be specific about the cause of your worries. From there, your family can make a plan about how to address these concerns as you move forward.
Take it One Step at a Time
Once your parents agree to have a conversation about their finances, it may be tempting to bring them all your questions and concerns at one time. However, you don’t want to overwhelm or bombard your parents before you even begin. While you may have had plenty of time to work through your emotions and prepare for these conversations, chances are your parents are also struggling with a lot of their own feelings regarding their aging, loss of independence, and the changes in your relationship. Give your parents time to adjust and try to keep your conversations brief and frequent rather than long and taxing.
Give Control to Your Parents Whenever Possible
The process of aging impacts not only your physical health but your mental health, as well. There’s a sense of losing control of oneself as you slowly begin to need more help for things you used to be able to handle on your own. Despite knowing logically that they may need more support, elderly parents may struggle to fully accept that fact. As you begin talking about their finances, be sure to reassure your parents that you’re not trying to take over their life, but simply offering them help whenever needed. Try to keep decision-making in their hands for as long as possible, allowing them to decide for themselves how they want to plan out their estate and how they wish to be taken care of as they continue to age.
Focus on Progress, Not Perfection
Having money conversations with an aging parent isn’t going to be a one-time discussion, but rather an ongoing conversation that will evolve as they continue to age. Taking care of your aging parents is a journey that is going to require patience, energy, and time. While having these conversations, try to remember that perfection isn’t the goal. Rather, focus on helping to support your parents in any way they might need, making progress one conversation at a time.
Final Thoughts on How to Talk to Your Aging Parents About Money
Money conversations can feel incredibly personal, especially if you’re not in the habit of having these kinds of conversations in your family. Even still, it’s important to push through the discomfort to have these conversations if you want to ensure that your parents’ needs will be met in the future. When possible, initiate these discussions sooner rather than later, when your parents are still healthy and able to communicate clearly. This gives you the best opportunity to understand your parents’ plans for their future, and this clarity will help you as you work to care for them as the years go by.
If you think you or your parents could benefit from speaking with one of our professionals about your family’s financial plans, please contact us today. At TriCapital, we know the importance of communicating honestly and clearly with your family about important financial matters and can provide assistance as you navigate these conversations. We look forward to hearing from you!
Securities offered through Triad Advisors, LLC, member FINRA/SPIC. Advisory services offered through TriCapital Wealth Management, Inc. TriCapital Wealth Management, Inc. is not affiliated with Triad Advisors, LLC.