How to Talk to Your Aging Parents About Finances

A recent study found that 73% of Americans haven’t had a comprehensive financial talk with their aging parent. If you haven’t had a money discussion, you’re certainly not alone. Many people feel uncomfortable talking about money in general. The idea of talking about finances with your aging parents may feel awkward, intimidating, or downright unpleasant.

However, as your parents get older, their financial situation could drastically change due to retirement, medical expenses, debt, windfalls, and other factors. In addition, having knowledge of their assets and estate before their death becomes especially important toward the end of life.

The Importance of Talking About Money With Your Parents

Ideally, all adult children should have some insight into their parent’s finances. Some parents are open and forthcoming about their money. But others are more quiet or guarded. Many factors, including culture, gender roles, parental expectations, and the quality of your family relationships will impact how your parents talk about their finances.

Here are some of the benefits of having these important conversations:

An understanding of their savings and assets: If your parents are still working, do they have a retirement plan? What does their emergency fund look like? And if they’re not working, are there any fears about running out of money? Knowing this information offers a starting point to assess needs in both the present and future.

Expectations for estate planning: Do you know if your parents have a will or power of attorney? If they have a trust, does someone in the family or a trusted loved one have a copy of it? At the very least, knowing the fundamentals of your parents’ estate plan can offer you perspective into their final wishes.

Insight into long-term planning: Even if your parents don’t need that level of care right now, nobody knows what the future holds. It’s essential to consider the possibilities of assisted living and nursing homes. You or another family member may want to provide monetary support, but you need to have a blueprint of what to expect.

The possibility of avoiding potential financial abuse: Unfortunately, elder financial exploitation is prevalent, even among financially responsible people. Even if your parents seem sharp, they may be susceptible to scams or predators. Having awareness about their finances may help you detect if abuse happens. It may also be helpful to share red flags indicating financial abuse with your parents directly.

The ability to provide financial assistance: Your parents may benefit from your monetary support, even if they haven’t asked you for help directly. Knowing more about their money situation can help you decide if you want to provide financial help or take over certain expenses for them.

Tips for Talking About Money With Your Aging Parents

You may feel guilty or nervous even thinking about how your parents manage money. It can be uncomfortable to find out that their financial situation is significantly better or worse than you anticipated. That said, it’s better to experience an uncomfortable situation while there’s time to work things out than to sort out the monetary issues when it’s too late.

Start By Talking About Your Own Money

Your parents might find it embarrassing, awkward, or ashamed to talk about their financial life. You approaching them can feel like a role reversal, and they might worry about their autonomy or your judgment.

It may be helpful to start by simply talking more about how you manage your own money. Talk about your investments and how you make everyday budgeting decisions. Open up about how money impacts your relationships, work, and health. Share both your successes and struggles.

Talking about your own finances may put your parents at ease, particularly if you’re able to model that it’s a safe and transparent discussion topic.

Emphasize the Desire to Honor Their Best Wishes

Convey that you understand just how hard your parents worked to earn their money. You see the sacrifice, and you want to do your absolute best to ensure that they have the best life ahead. You also want to ensure that their intentions are carried out after they die.

Even if your parents are in good health, crises happen quickly and unexpectedly. The goal is to avoid needing to make critical decisions without having all the information available.

If possible, ask if you can review your parents’ existing powers of attorney and living wills. If they have a lawyer or financial planner, ask if you can have their contacts. You should also either have a copy of their estate-planning documents or know where they can be easily located.

Ask About ‘In Case of Emergency’ Plans

Emergencies happen, and it’s important to know how to look after your parents should they arise. This can be as simple as asking your parents, “What’s the plan if there’s an emergency?” It may also be, “If mom gets sick, what do you have in mind?”

It’s not uncommon for one spouse to manage household money. But if something happens to that person, the other parent may be completely unaware of their various accounts or assets.

At the very least, consider asking your parents if they would be willing to keep a shared file with their bank account information and various assets. If not, inquire about their willingness to meet with a financial advisor. They may be more apt to initially trust a professional’s advice than their child’s, and it’s important to respect that.

Communicate With Your Siblings

Financial decisions can get complicated among siblings, but the earlier you start having conversations, the better. It’s ideal if everyone can be on the same page. However, this may not always be possible, particularly if you have distant, estranged, or complex relationships with your siblings.

You may need to come to terms with agreeing to disagree. But it’s essential that you consider what’s important to you in terms of financial assistance, familial caregiving (if needed), and how other expenses will be handled later down the line.

Complete decisions don’t need to be made right away, but convey the desire to have open communication. It’s truly in everyone’s best interest.

Focus On Accepting What You Can Control

Ultimately, you can’t change other people, and that certainly includes your parents. If you’ve made the effort to have these important conversations, but don’t feel like you’re getting anywhere, it may be time to release your expectations. They may not be willing to disclose their financial details to you, or they might disregard your worries and tell you that everything is fine.

One of the hardest parts of aging is the fear or reality of losing control. While many older adults logically recognize the benefits of having support, independence matters, and jeopardizing autonomy can feel incredibly threatening.

It may be helpful to reassure your parents that you simply want to provide emotional or financial assistance. Remind them that you don’t want to make decisions on their behalf or without their green light.

Keep Conversations Ongoing & Avoid Passing Judgment

Money talk isn’t a one-time discussion, and you may need to meet with your mom and dad and other family members periodically to discuss changes or concerns. If you can clearly convey that you are simply here to help without judgment, your parents may be more apt to trust you. This is especially true if your parents are struggling financially or if you’re deciding to loan money.

If they don’t seem comfortable talking about a particular topic, ask your parents if they’d be willing to bookmark it for a later date. They may feel safer knowing they can control how and when they discuss specific issues.

How Therapy Can Help If You’re Struggling With Your Aging Parents

Financial stress is just one part of managing the stress that can come with aging parents. This can be a challenging time, and it’s important to look after your own needs and wellness.

Therapy can help you feel more supported and assured in making the right decisions for you and your family. I work with clients in all types of caregiving roles, including adult children of aging parents. I know that talking about money can be challenging for families, and together, we can discuss boundaries, emotional needs, and your goals for moving forward.

Wherever you are on this journey, I would be honored to walk with you. I welcome you to contact me today to schedule a consultation.


4601 Spicewood Springs Road Building 3, Suite 200
Austin, TX 78759
(512) 988-3363

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