Chances are, you recall how your parents helped and guided you as you grew up. Remember the critical discussions about responsibility, honesty, and compassion? Now, later in life, those roles have reversed. Now you’re the one offering support and guidance to your aging parents, and at least one conversation will likely revolve around money.
Many seniors are aware of their limitations and have a solid understanding of finances. However, if you have a money-strapped parent who needs your help and you're not sure how to approach them for this crucial discussion, keep one thing top-of-mind — you have their best interests at heart. That’s the message you need to share. Show your compassion. Make sure they understand that the goal of the discussion is not for you to control their decisions, but instead to help them make smart ones.
Here are some other thoughts and conversation starters.
Choose your words with care. Be as non-confrontational as possible. Amy Goyer, AARP’s family, and caregiving expert recommend using “I statements” — sentences that begin with the word “I” versus “You.” Use these “I statements” to validate your parents’ feelings. Instead of starting a sentence with "You need to…" say “The way I understand it, doing this is the best way to…” Communicate that you understand their concerns and their fears, and you want to help them handle tough, complicated decisions.
Talk about yourself. You can use your own experiences as a bridge to talking about your parents’ needs. You may want to mention that you're thinking about signing a power of attorney or are considering purchasing long-term care insurance. Then you can ask your parents if they’ve done the same.
Offer your assistance. Ask your parents if they need help with small tasks not directly related to money. Offer to help them with grocery shopping or running errands. As they grow more comfortable accepting your help, you can begin offering your assistance with managing their finances.
Ask the right questions. One important question to ask, in a non-threatening way, is about a will. You might inquire if your parents have thought about the things and people that are important to them, asking “How would you like to acknowledge them after you are gone?” and “Have you considered what causes you want to support in your will?”
Other vital questions should include:
- Do you have a financial power of attorney in place?
- Have you compiled a list of all your accounts, and named beneficiaries for those accounts?
- Do you have life insurance?
- What financial firms and professionals do you use and do you have an attorney? If so, what is their contact information?
- Where do you store your important documents, such as insurance policies and account information?
Watch out for scams. Once you’ve initiated a dialogue with your parents about money, you’ll be in a better position to help them spot and avoid scams. Even warning them can set them up for a scam, though, says the AARP. Lecturing your parents about a mistake when it comes to a scam can play right into a fraudster’s hands. Instead, talk to your parents through your reasoning as to why something might be a scam. If they’ve been victimized, encourage them to talk to authorities to help protect others.
Seek professional guidance. Particularly if parents don’t want to open up to you, involving someone outside the family with expertise in aging and financial matters can be incredibly helpful. You could suggest they meet with a professional who advises older clients, such as a lawyer or a financial professional. Third-party prods could help get the conversation started within the family.
Ashar Group is a nationally licensed, independent resource for financial professionals and fiduciaries, helping them unlock the value of existing life insurance assets for their clients who no longer need or want their life insurance policy. We do not sell insurance or offer financial planning services, but we’re here to help your clients confidently take the next step toward a secure future. Feel free to contact us today.