The most difficult money conversation we may face is talking to an aging parent or adult about finances. But consider this: Half of all nursing home expenses are paid for by families, while 85% of long-term care decisions are made under stress following a medical crisis, according to a PBS article.
In other words, finding a way to get your parents to sit down for a financial talk — while they’re still healthy — stands to benefit you both.
How to prepare
Every family is different. Start by considering the situation from your parents’ point of view. Be respectful. Remember that financial matters can be deeply personal and emotional, especially for older generations unaccustomed to sharing such information.
Create a checklist of all the things you might need to know, such as where you can find important documents — birth certificates, health insurance information and so on. You should also know how to contact their legal or financial advisers, if they have any.
Since the money subject can lead to enormous discomfort (on both sides), be sure to prepare yourself by processing your own feelings before engaging in dialogue.
It’s best to schedule your talk for a time when there will be minimal distractions. The last thing you want to do is tackle the delicate subject matter during a busy holiday or wait for a medical issue to arise.
Set the right tone.
Try easing into the conversation by starting with a relatively broad topic, such as asking about plans for retirement. No two parent-child relationships are the same, so if you have siblings your parents feel more comfortable talking to about such matters, consider enlisting their help.
Be honest and make it clear to your loved ones that you’re thinking about the future and simply want to support them in any way you can. You may face some resistance, as dealing with a loss of health as we age and admitting we may need help with everyday tasks can be hard to accept.
Invite your parents to be the decision-makers wherever possible. Maintaining their sense of agency is essential, but also offer assistance with things such as grocery shopping, taxes or keeping track of bills. Find out what’s important to them.
Remember that talking about money with aging family members will probably take several conversations, along with a certain degree of patience. But, by talking to your parents now, you can ensure that if the time comes when they need your help, they’ll be taken care of in a way that satisfies everyone — and helps them the most.