Nobody wants to talk to their aging parents about money. It ranks right up there with “the talk” they gave you when you were a kid. It’s especially difficult when you’re not sure your parents are financially prepared for the future. As uncomfortable as it is, that discussion is critical. Avoiding it is not okay. You love your parents, and you want them to be able to retire with dignity. You want them to live out their dream retirement. And if you don’t ask, you may find yourself cleaning up your parents’ finances after they are gone. I know it’s tough, but you have to have that conversation. These tips can help.
1. Check Your Attitude
Don’t go in and tell them what to do. Don’t go demanding that they tell you everything. And definitely don’t go in asking what you’ll get when they die. You’ll get nowhere. Instead, be gentle, respectful, and without judgment. Go in the spirit of love. Tell them you want their retirement years to be awesome!
2. Use Your Own Story
Talk about how much better you feel now that you’ve started making a budget and getting out of debt—but only if you’re really doing that! Talk about the sense of freedom you feel, the reduced stress, and the closeness you feel with your spouse. And talk about your own retirement plans. This can motivate them. They’ll see that change is possible!
3. Use Current Events
The news of the day (financial markets, scams on seniors, etc.) can be an open door to ask them what they think and what steps they’ve taken to protect their money. If you come across a story online, print it off and give it to them (or email it if they’re tech savvy). Simple stuff like this can create an opportunity for dialogue.
4. Blame Your Financial Advisor
In passing, mention that you’ve been talking with your advisor about estate planning and retirement plans. This made you wonder how your parents were handling it. Then you can ask questions like, “Who are you working with?” “How are you keeping track of your investments?” “What did you decide to do with important papers?” If they haven’t done anything, your questions could be that swift kick in the pants to get them moving!
5. Talk About a Friend’s Situation
For example, “My friend Beth’s mom is really sick. She’s really worried about her dad. It made me think to ask if you two have done any financial planning.” This shows why you’re bringing up such a touchy subject and that you’re coming from a good place.
6. If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try Again
Your parents may change the subject when you try to talk to them. If that happens, bring it up again a few days later. And again and again if you have to. They’ll catch on that you’re serious.
7. Involve Siblings
Don’t keep them in the dark. They may have information you need. And you don’t want your parents to think you’re trying to get their money and shut out the family. The siblings can also help carry the load. You can have each other’s back.
8. Point Them to the Pros
You don’t have to be the one digging into their statements and checkbook. Your parents may not want you to know the details, good or bad. Find a financial advisor to help them, like the coach you use or an ELP (Endorsed Local Provider) in their area.
I’m not saying these talks are easy. They’re not. It’s tough. Let your love for them win out over your anxiety. And remember, it needs to be an ongoing discussion. As they age, they need to be prepared financially. Take the bull by the horns and get that conversation started now!