No one really loves talking about money, unless you’ve won the lottery of course! But, talking finances with your parents might seem like the most anxiety-inducing conversation of all, particularly if you feel they need help in planning for retirement. What should you say? When should you bring it up? Check out these tips.
You’re Not the Only One Avoiding the Topic
While you may take comfort in the fact that 73 percent of adult children have not had detailed conversations with their parents about their finances according to GOBankingRates, that doesn’t negate the importance of the topic. In reality, it’s ideal to begin talking about finances with your parents before any issues arise as part of an ongoing conversation about how you can help support their needs and wants for the future.
Where to Start
Before you can plan, and really even before you initiate the conversation, it’s important to prepare yourself. By that we mean, identifying what questions to ask to give you an understanding of where your parents stand. The basics include:
- Where are important documents such as bank, brokerage and mortgage information, deeds/titles, insurance policies, tax returns, monthly and/or outstanding bills, pension statements and/or social security statements plus any stock and bond certificates stored?
- Where do they have their power of attorney, living will, do not resuscitate order and health care proxy stored?
- Can they provide a list of passwords, account numbers, health insurance and Medicare information as well as medications/doctors, duplicate sets of house/car keys and safety deposit keys?
- Do they have an attorney and/or financial professional that helps them plan for the future?
Breaking the Ice
Striking the right tone in the conversation is vital. Even if they need some help, they are still your parents and value their independence just as you do. That’s why you should approach the topic in a respectful way that shows you’re not trying to take over; otherwise they likely won’t be receptive at all. Reassure them that you want to support their wishes and work with them to achieve the retirement they deserve financially. Ways to bring up the topic of planning for retirement might include:
- Current events – Perhaps it’s time for Medicare enrollment, there’s a change in tax laws or their healthcare plan, etc. as a backdrop for approaching the conversation.
- Share an experience – Perhaps something that happened to a friend or neighbor then ask what they would want in that situation. Or even share the challenges a friend of yours faced when something happened to one of their parents as context for why you’re bringing up the topic.
- Get their advice – Whether just as a conversation starter or perhaps you’ve been thinking about your own financial planning; a great way to get your parents talking is to ask what they would recommend for you.
- Be straight with them – Depending on your family’s communication style this may be the best approach. Simply tell them you’d like to help with their finances so they can enjoy retirement without worrying about money.
And don’t feel like you have to tackle this topic with your parents all on your own. Consider talking with your siblings as well. Not to gang up on your parents, rather to get their help and perspective.
Considerations in Planning for Retirement
As we said, helping your parents in planning for retirement should ideally be more than one conversation. Now that you’ve broken the ice and understand the what and where from the basics above it’s time to dig into the actual planning. Next steps should be to sit down together with some of those important documents and help them determine:
- If they each have adequate life insurance so the other could live comfortably should something happen.
- If they have enough retirement income to pay bills and cover essentials as well as the what ifs, or where the gaps are.
- If they don’t have advance directives such as living will, DNR and/or health care proxy, what steps are needed to create them.
Also, if they do have an attorney or financial advisor it might be helpful to speak with them together.