One of the most challenging conversations we can have with our aging parents or grandparents revolves around money and their wishes! I have a close friend dealing with this situation currently and it reminds me just how sensitive of a topic it can be for some. To talk about money is one thing, but with our parents, it may be even more daunting. It’s time to get out of our comfort zone!
Oftentimes, we make assumptions about another’s financial situation and it’s not until the dreaded emergency or critical event occurs we realize those assumptions were wrong. On any given month we hear about a celebrity who had millions in assets, pass without a will or any plan. While it may not be considered the most fun cocktail hour topic, it is one that all of us really need to have! We cannot afford to make assumptions about our family’s finances. The burden and unexpected costs can negatively impact every member of the family.
Here are 5 important tips for having the money conversation with aging parents or siblings every adult should have:
The most important step before talking to someone else about their financial affairs is to begin taking steps with your own wellbeing. This is vital because as you go through the process yourself it will make the conversation much easier. You will then be speaking from experience rather than be thought of as pushy or bossy.
In this case, it means putting together your estate plan. But, Roxanne I don’t have millions so I don’t have an estate! My answer to that is, “do you own a home”, “do you have an auto”, “do you have expenses and an income”? YOU have an estate!!! An estate plan is simply a set of legal documents to give instructions on how to handle your affairs, such as property and assets if you pass or are unable to make decisions on your own.
Documents such as a will, a living revocable trust, living will, and power of attorney may seem like complicated legalese, but they don’t need to be.
There is a lot of shame and guilt cast when it comes to discussing money. In our society, we often combine our net worth with self-worth. We think one is more valuable if they have a lot of money and less valuable if they don’t. This conversation is not you trying to figure out how much money your parents have or what can potentially pass down to you. This conversation is about how the family can be prepared in advance, legally, financially, and emotionally as well. Let’s face it, if we don’t have to “worry” about how to pay or handle the emergency then we’re not operating in chaos.
Don’t be surprised and let go of any preconceived notions of what you think should be because it’s neither relevant nor helpful. It’s possible, for example, your parents may not have much in retirement because they used it to pay for you or your siblings to go to college. They could also have used the funds to buy the home you grew up in.
Focus the conversation on your parents’ needs and goals. They have wishes and it’s important to understand what they are and to respect them. They may also have guilt so try hard to not focus there.
Having a conversation means it should not be an interrogation, rather a more casual discussion to get the ball rolling. Perhaps something like, “I just recently met with my attorney and we’re starting to put together our will and legal papers. It got me thinking and I realized we’ve never talked about this before. Have you thought about it?”
Each family possesses different dynamics, but these are topics that can affect every member of the family. It may be more effective to come as a united front with your siblings to have a substantive conversation. Be mindful though as a group you’re coming across as genuine and concerned, not ganging up on them.
If you have siblings, use them as practice conversations and help them get their estate plans in order. Do they have a will? Term life insurance? Power of Attorney? Have you discussed guardianship if children are involved? There is strength in numbers. Imagine your family together during the holidays. All the siblings sitting together and one says, ‘We have been discussing over the last few months how to make sure we manage what we have, have enough insurance, and the kids are taken care of. I wanted to make sure you guys were okay as well.’ It turns into open dialogue and non-judgemental or confrontational.
If your parents are in their 50s or 60s, they may want to seriously look at Long Term Care insurance. As we all know, the cost of healthcare is skyrocketing, and we are living longer. Long Term Care insurance pays for care that’s beyond traditional healthcare insurance policies (i.e. in-home care, nursing home, assisted living). Unfortunately, many older adults without LTC insurance are finding that their healthcare costs are wiping out the retirement accounts. Do you realize the cost of nursing homes can be over $80K per year and in-home health assistance cost $50K per year on average? If the money runs out, guess who bears those financial costs? LTC insurance is cheaper to buy when your parents are younger and healthier.
As you go through the process of getting on the same page with your parent’s financial situation, all adult family members should have both a physical and virtual vault to store the important legal and financial documents. In times of crisis, it’s imperative to have a convenient central location with all the important documents.
I have focused this post or conversation on the estate plan because it’s extremely important and generally speaking, low hanging fruit. A basic estate plan can be completed online in a few hours for less than a few hundred dollars every family member should have but most don’t. If you’re more comfortable with an attorney, let me know as I have a couple of great referrals that in my opinion are cost-effective. Basically, an estate plan has everything to do with making sure your family decides what happens with their affairs in advance. It can keep loved ones from having to fight with courts, insurance companies, banks, and hospitals while grieving.
Conversations in regards to retirement, social security, when should they retire and how long that money will last are equally as important. Speak with a professional certified financial planner.
As much as we would like, we have no control over the future, nor can we change the past. All we have is the current moment. Ask yourself if you and your family are fully protected legally and financially. Get together with your parents or perhaps even your grandparents to make sure you can all have peace of mind. It’s priceless!!
For a list of referrals, I’m happy to email introduce you!
Your Money Coach,