Money Talks: Top 4 Tips for Discussing Your Aging Parents' Finances
When you were a kid, the first instance of the money talk with your parents may have been whether to spend your allowance on the latest toy or save your money for something in the future.
Those money management lessons from your parents may have continued throughout the years as you got your first job, went off to college, and maybe even as you looked to buy your first home. However, now might be the time where you'll need to help guide your parents with their finances.
Here are four steps to making a conversation about your aging parents' finances productive without causing a rift between you.
1. Ease Into the Conversation
Sometimes a natural money conversation starter presents itself. It could be anything from the illness or passing of a friend or family member, to a casual comment from one of your parents about the rising cost of prescription medicine. Consider using one of these opportunities to gently open the discussion. If you have siblings, ask them to join the conversation.
To address any concerns about your motivations for getting involved, stress that you want to ensure that your parents' financial goals are met and that their wishes are followed. You might start by asking, "What are some of the most important things you'd like to do now that you're retired?" Once you get them talking about their general goals, it might be easier to segue into more sensitive topics.
2. Ask If They Need Money Management Support
If your parents complain to you about keeping up with bill payments, that can be your cue to ask more questions to see how you can assist. That could be a perfect opportunity to see if they'd like help scheduling their bill payments.
It's also good timing to discuss if they've heard any of the latest news about financial scammers. Remind them to keep their Social Security number, financial account numbers, and passwords private and secure.
Even if a parent needs help with money management, be cautious about becoming a joint account holder on their bank account. That move might raise the specter of potential abuse, especially if other siblings question your authority to spend the money in the account. As an alternative, a parent may grant access to their accounts through a power of attorney (POA), which would only permit you (or another sibling) to withdraw funds for that parent's benefit.
3. Tactfully Broach Estate Matters
The issue of estate planning can be an especially sensitive subject. You'll need to get across the message that your interest in these matters isn't self-serving but based on your desire to understand and help fulfill their wishes. Let's say a family member died recently without a will. You might say something like, "Dad, after what happened with Uncle Joe, we all need to think about getting our estate planning documents in order."
If he agrees, you can move the discussion further into topics like a will. Encourage them to store copies of these documents in a secure place and tell a trusted family member how to locate them in case of an emergency.
4. Talk About Healthcare Expenses
If your parents are dealing with challenging health issues, it's especially important to talk about finances for these potential expenses. If you haven't discussed this topic with them before, ask whether they have private medical insurance, supplemental insurance such as Medicaid, or other assets to pay for healthcare costs not covered by Medicare.
Ask about their funding plans and preferences for long-term care. Do they have long-term care insurance? What are their preferred living arrangements if their health starts to decline? Encourage them to create a medical POA to select someone to make healthcare decisions on their behalf if they become unable to do so.
With the proper forethought and sensitivity, you can all have a productive and cooperative conversation about your aging parents' finances. You can provide the support they might want or need, while reassuring yourself that their concerns have been addressed – paving the way for any future conversations.
For more information about helping your senior parents manage their finances, visit or call your local KeyBank branch.