Published on 08-14-2019
Money can be a truly delicate topic to bring up for a conversation with your family, especially when it is with your parents.
While I’ve been writing about marriage and money for almost a decade, I have to admit - it wasn’t until the last year or so that my mom and I had a real discussion about her finances.
Sure, growing up she opened our first savings accounts, showed us how to budget, and tried to warn us about getting deep into debt, but it’s been pretty one sided.
She helped us.
Now, though, with kids of my own and my mom getting closer to retirement, talking about money has taken a different turn.
My husband and I have recently seen several family members and older friends have some health issues and it made us realize that we need to be more on top with our parents about their plans for retirement and beyond.
It’s not an easy topic for most families, but it’s absolutely essential. As my mom gets ready to retire, I want to make sure that she gets the most out of it.
That means talking about some general things - what she’d like to do during retirement - as well as some more specifically financial things, such as health care and long term care.
The trouble is that it can get overwhelming to know where to start. For some families, money has never been a topic discussed openly.
Journalist and author Cameron Huddleston had to deal with it firsthand when helping her mother who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.
Her experience in the financial field was helpful in some regards, but it didn’t make those decisions and talks easier.
Her latest book is Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk is a fantastic guide on how to come together as a family now so down the line, everyone is on the same page.
If you’re looking to having the chat with your parents or want to get more comfortable with bringing up money, here are some essential topics to think and talk about.
You should break these up into several, smaller conversations rather than having one big talk. It’s less stressful and will help you become more relaxed with checking in with each other.
This can be a fun entry point for you and your parents. You can start off the conversation away by skipping the finances for a bit and instead focus on what they have planned for their retirement.
Do they plan on moving closer to you and/or any grandkids? Do they want to travel? Volunteer more? Downsize their home?
From there you can ease into what steps they plan on taking to get there, with finances being gently mentioned.
Even if our parents are fairly healthy, talking about health care is critical. Not only because of the finances, but we want to make sure our parents’ wishes and concerns are addressed.
During any stressful situation, such as hospitalization, not having a plan or idea of our parent’s wishes can an emotionally tough situation even more demanding as we’re trying to guess what their needs are.
Illness and injury are not really fun topics to discuss, but you can make it a little easier to go over by explaining to your parents why you want to talk about it.
You can tell them, ‘I want to know what’s on your mind so we can make sure we get the care that you want.’
It’ll help them see that this is protection for them and it’s a way of keeping their dignity.
You’d also want to look at making sure they have the right documents needed for their care such as:
Having these discussions about who will be the point person as well their wishes will make a difficult situation a bit easier.
Unless there is an immediate need, I would save these conversations for after you established a rapport with your money chats.
Again the focus is on making sure they know that you and your siblings want to have their estate handled their way and that you want to respect their wishes.
Your parents should have a will (or a trust), beneficiaries listed for assets like their 401(k)s and insurance, and other documents like a letter of intent.
Since you’ve already have worked through some the other topics, it’ll be a bit easier to bring this up.
As you prepare to talk to your parents about their plans for retirement and more, it’s also a smart move to do a review of your own finances.
It can be a good jumping-off point for a conversation, but you’re also putting yourself on more solid ground for your goals and dreams.
Coastal has a Wealth Management team, available through CFS*, that can guide you on preparing your finances for retirement and also help you with more immediate goals!
Elle Martinez is the creator of Couple Money, a personal finance podcast and site focused on helping couples get on the same page, dump their debt faster, start building wealth together
*Non-deposit investment products and services are offered through CUSO Financial Services, L.P. ("CFS"), a registered broker-dealer (Member FINRA/SIPC) and SEC Registered Investment Advisor. Products offered through CFS: are not NCUA/NCUSIF or otherwise federally insured, are not guarantees or obligations of the credit union, and may involve investment risk including possible loss of principal. Investment Representatives are registered through CFS. Coastal Credit Union has contracted with CFS to make non-deposit investment products and services available to credit union members.