Throughout childhood, we get used to turning to our parents for advice. My friend and I are fighting, what should I do? I’m struggling in Spanish class, how can I turn things around?
As we get older, the advice we ask for may change, but we continue to turn to them, just the same. If I take out student loans with a 3.7% interest rate, how much will I owe? Can I afford a new car?
But what happens when your parents start to get older and need to rely on you, instead? Going from the advice-seeker to the advice-giver may feel uncomfortable, but it’s a role reversal that many of us will be forced to make in our lifetime.
Discussing finances with our aging parents can be particularly uncomfortable for a handful of reasons. For starters, open discussions about money have historically been viewed as taboo and many people feel uncomfortable even broaching the subject. Furthermore, adult children might feel invasive mentioning money to their parents.
A GOBankingRates survey found that a whopping 73% of Americans haven’t had serious financial talks with their parents, with over half reporting that they don’t think these conversations need to happen “until their parents retire, start to have health issues, show signs they need help or actually ask for help.”
In truth, the earlier these conversations happen, the better. Financial conversations are some of the most important ones you can have with your parents as they grow older, and the sooner the line of communication is opened up, the more time you and they will have to prepare.
If your parents have always been fairly open about money and you have a good relationship with them, there’s no reason to dance around the point. Be respectful, but be direct. However, if you’re nervous about how they might respond, here are four tips to broach the topic in a subtle and respectful way.
Start with a broader topic
Instead of coming right out and asking about their life’s savings, you could open up the conversation by asking about a topic such as retirement. Do you have an idea of what your retirement will look like? Will you plan to move? Downsize? Get the discussion going and warm them up. Quite possibly, the conversation will naturally flow from retirement plans, hopes and dreams into logistics and finances.
Offer a lending hand
Another way to crack the door open on money conversations is to offer your help. It can be something simple like offering to do yard work for them once a week or taking their car into the shop, but it will allow you a closer look into their day-to-day lives while getting them comfortable with the idea of accepting your help. Once they have gotten used to accepting help with smaller tasks, they’ll likely be more open to the idea of you helping out in other areas of life, for example, with taxes or with filling out Medicare paperwork.
Rely on siblings
You never want to make your parent feel ganged up on, but if you have siblings it is okay to lean on each other, bounce ideas back and forth, and come up with a game-plan together.
Talk about yourself
Not to make things all about you, but it can be exceedingly helpful to use yourself as an example when trying to open the floor to a difficult conversation. You could mention that you have recently opened up a new retirement account and then ask them how they saved up for retirement. You could mention that you’ve been thinking about creating a will and ask if they have any advice for you based off of their personal experiences.
Financial Planning with The Humphreys Group
Sometimes the trickiest part of money talks is just getting the conversation started. The Humphreys Group provides expertise to help women navigate difficult transitions such as taking care of aging parents, and our passion is helping clients take control of their financial lives. If you’re interested in continuing the discussion with The Humphreys Group, reach out to our team today.