Talking to Your Parents About Money

Stevenson Law Office

Stevenson Law Office

You may not like to think about your own finances, let alone bring up the topic with others. But there comes a time when financial issues should be explored with your parents once they get older and they need to plan ahead.

This conversation is especially needed if your parents become ill or frail and may have difficulty managing their own affairs.

When you do talk to them, your parents may be upset because they feel you’re infringing on their independence and want to talk about a private issue or they may welcome your help but didn’t ask earlier because they didn’t want to impose on you or were too embarrassed to ask.

One issue you may need to deal with is denial. Your parents may not want to think about a future when they can’t handle their own finances or they may suffer from cognitive issues and not realize they have financial problems.

The Wall Street Journal has an excellent piece on the topic of children talking to older parents about financial issues which provides a range of suggestions from a group of experts. Some of those suggestions include,

  • Don’t put the conversation off until the “right” time because there is no “right” time. Just get it done. Waiting until there’s an emergency or until a parent is incapacitated makes the process far more complicated and stressful.
  • Make the conversation businesslike and without distractions so all the parties can focus and make decisions. Schedule a day and time for the discussion. Pay attention to their reaction or fatigue. Schedule another time to follow up.
  • You’ll need to mix one uncomfortable and important discussion (finances) with another (end of life planning). Many seniors don’t want invasive medical interventions at the end of their lives, but unless their intentions are made clear, they may get them anyways. A good part of your parents’ assets could be spent on medical procedures and treatments they don’t want.
  • Financial problems can be an early symptom of cognitive decline. This can include not paying bills on time, being unable to balance a checkbook or being victimized by a scam. The first step for you to help is to start the conversation. Express your concerns and make this an ongoing conversation. Offer to help keep financial affairs organized and pay bills on time.

Whether you’re retired, or the child of someone who is, and want to talk about financial and estate planning, please contact us for a free consultation. These conversations need to take place, the earlier the better. There is no shame in talking about money. It is a shame when the conversation never occurs and older parents needlessly suffer financially as a result.