Talking to Your Senior Parents About a Personal Finance Plan

May 29th, 2014

Personal finance is an important consideration at any age, but it’s a particularly difficult one for adult children to discuss with their aging parents. So it’s no surprise that, according to a recent report from Fidelity Investments, although as many as 94 percent of adult children agree that it’s vitally important to fully discuss personal finance with their aging parents, fewer than half have actually done so.

It may be easier and simpler to avoid the topic, but that’s not healthy. The study shows that avoiding this important conversation can lead to discontent and disagreement between senior parents and adult children. It can also harm the family’s ability to plan effectively for the future.

To facilitate the start and successful conclusion of this conversation, try these suggestions:

Find a “Hook”

News reporters know that stories become more accessible when they begin with a compelling item of interest. Open the door to financial discussions with your parents by starting the conversation with some information they’ll find interesting, such as:

  • A news item or current event, or a short-term financial opportunity
  • A true story about a friend’s or family member’s finances
  • A concern or item of interest brought up by your parent

Ask for Their Advice

Many senior parents have managed their money fairly well their entirely lives. It’s legitimate for you to raise your own personal finance questions and ask them for help. You might ask about how best to respond to your financial manager’s questions, select an investment strategy, or make a specific decision.

From there, it can be natural and easy to ask them about their financial situation and begin discussing the best ways forward.

Think About the Family

If your parents have adequate financial resources, they’re probably concerned about disposing of it fairly and wisely to children and grandchildren in their wills. Asking about their confidence in these financial plans can provide the opening for a fuller discussion of their current financial matters, choices, and opportunities.

Serve Only as an Advisor

You’ll smooth the way for an in-depth financial conversation with your parents and a comprehensive financial plan for their future by avoiding trying to take control of their resources. There are plenty of professionals who can offer management and balancing of their assets. The goal, after all, is not to supplant your parents in the financial driver’s seat but instead to make sure they have secured their lifestyle to the best of their financial ability.

Take Small Steps

It helps to recognize that you don’t have to solve every financial problem in one attempt. You can have many small, itemized conversations with your parents and gradually work toward a comprehensive plan. This approach is not only less draining emotionally, but also has the effect of removing any obstacles to a full discussion of their financial futures.

Your aging parents may be unwilling to fully acknowledge their diminishing capacities or their need for outside assistance beyond what they’ve needed in the past. This is quite common, and very understandable. To avoid triggering a negative response, be diplomatic and frame conversations and planning in terms of positive benefits like spending more time together. Also, avoid patronizing your parents by providing help they don’t actually need.