This is a guest post by Kathleen Burns Kingsbury, Author, Breaking Money Silence
When I was in my twenties, I joked with my mom and dad that raising parents was hard work. I really didn’t know how challenging it would be until years later when they started aging and my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
As a family, we had already proactively talked about money. So, while my mom’s illness was stressful, the financial aspect of our journey had been taken care of. Many families are not so lucky as evidenced by seven in ten adults finding it difficult to talk to their families about who will make financial decisions for an aging parent or relative.
Given the increase in longevity due to medical advances, caring for an aging parent is likely to be in your clients’ futures (if not your own). Here are three tips to proactively discussing financial matters with an aging parent that you can share with your clients.
Tip #1: Identify and process your feelings before the invitation.
Talking to parents about their estate plans, financial situation, and health care wishes is emotional business. Before you invite them to discuss these matters, take time to process your own feelings.
You may be annoyed, angry, frustrated, sad, or scared about their situation. Whatever your emotional state, know that it is normal and healthy to have a reaction to your parents aging. Keep in mind that your feelings may change over time.
Tip #2: Extend a loving invitation.
Lead with loving intentions, and let your parents know that you want to discuss their financial life because you care. Begin by saying something like, “I know this might be difficult for you to talk about, but I care enough about you to want to make sure you’re taken care of as you age. Can we find a time to discuss what plans you have made and how I might be able to help you in making sure everything is taken care of?”
Or, if there has been a specific health care crisis, you may want to say, “These last few months have been hard on you as you recover from your heart attack. I noticed that paying bills and keeping up with finances has gotten a little more challenging. Can we find a time to talk about how I might be able to help you keep up with your bills so you can continue to focus on getting well?” This approach shows that you care and allows the other person to decide when and where to have the conversation.
Tip #3: Be specific about your concerns.
When sharing your concerns with a parent, be specific. For example, if you are worried that your mother has been the victim of a telephone scam targeted at the elderly, let her know that. Say something like, “Mom, I love you very much and I want what is best for you. Last month, I noticed a $100 charge on the credit card bill from the Orphans and Widow Fund. I did some research, and I found out that this organization doesn’t exist. I am worried that you may have been taken advantage of financially. I would like to help you not get hurt like this again in the future. What do you think?”
If you express loving concern and are specific about the cause of your worry, your parent is more likely to understand your actions. In addition, asking for their input allows your parent to maintain dignity while accepting assistance.
In my recently published book, Breaking Money Silence: How to Shatter Money Taboos, Talk More Openly about Finances, and Live a Richer Life, I share many more tips on how to discuss financial matters as parents age. Order your copy today at Amazon.
Together, we can break money silence for good.
Learn more at www.BreakingMoneySilence.com.