Talking to Your Loved One about Money

May 21, 2015

We all do our share of trying to avoid the things we need to do most; when it comes to that dreaded talk with elderly parents about their finances, the denial quotient skyrockets. “It will only embarrass them” … “I’m sure mom has things under control – I don’t want her to think I don’t trust her” – have these thoughts stopped you in your tracks?  You’re not alone. But trust us – getting clear on dad’s financial picture is something you’ll want to do before the unexpected happens, and not after, when you’re having to scramble for critical information.

So how to tackle this delicate subject? We encourage families that it doesn’t have to be awkward, especially if you begin on a positive and proactive note. Perhaps start with how much better your own financial picture became once you made a solid budgeting plan, and that it made you think of how important it is to get a clear picture of finances before a crisis happens. Also, don’t expect to cover the ground you need to in one conversation; it’s more likely you’ll meet a few times, particularly if you end up looping in a family lawyer or financial advisor.

Beyond that, here are some tips we’ve found helpful for making this process productive and successful:

  • First, schedule an actual time to sit down – don’t just wait for an opportune moment. Choose a time and place where you can meet in person, without the distractions of grandkids or dad’s favorite TV show.
  • Arrive with a check list of documents you would need access to in case of emergency, such as mom’s will; marriage and birth certificates; property title(s); insurance policies; tax returns, and living will; as well as contact information for any legal or financial advisors (attorneys, life insurance agents, financial planners)
  • Plan to get clear on the key financial facts you need to know: mom’s income and cash equivalents, any outstanding debt or liens, retirement and investment accounts, any info pertaining to business ownership, any automatically-withdrawn contributions to charitable organizations
  • Be pleasantly persistent but patient. If dad tries to go off-topic a few times, make a note of it and circle back later, or at a next meeting. Stay positive; keep the conversation framed as a group effort towards making life easier and less stressful for all of you.
  • If tension or frustration runs too high, step back and regroup. Consider bringing in an outsider to help facilitate next time around – a family lawyer, financial planner, or even another family member who might be able to diffuse things and move them along.

Want more information? Check out this helpful video from the Today Show website.