How can I start a conversation with my aging parents about finances?

As your parents age, it’s important to have conversations with them about money. It can be a difficult conversation to start as most families don’t talk about this regularly. This video outlines some ways that you can approach this subject with your parents to have a positive and productive conversation.

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Video transcript

Opening a dialogue with your aging parents about their money can be tricky since the topic is emotional and stressful for many people. Even if they are in good health and independent, initiating the conversation is still important. 

Ensure all siblings are on the same page

Ideally, these conversations should involve all siblings. Discuss this first amongst your siblings and make sure everyone is on the same page. You don’t necessarily all need to be present for the conversation, but it’s important to make sure that everyone is involved and informed. 

Be respectful and patient

Be respectful and patient with your parents. If your parents are financially well-off, they may already have a financial advisor and be more comfortable around conversations about money. If they are in a difficult financial situation, the conversation may trigger some resistance. 

Many parents do not want their children to know their financial situation — especially when they are having difficulties making ends meet. Approach the conversation from a place of understanding and non-judgment. 

Ask questions and listen

Initially, just ask questions and listen. Don’t try to provide advice right from the get-go. Regardless of their situation, it is important they understand that you would like to make their lives more comfortable and manageable in the long term. Again, just listen and try to understand their top concerns. This process can take time and involves some challenging conversations. Be patient and persistent. If they are reluctant or overwhelmed, it’s best to address one issue at a time. 

Discuss how to gather important information

Once you’ve opened up the conversation, discuss how to gather important information. Make sure you know where their will is kept and who their lawyer is. Create a list of bank accounts, investment accounts and insurance policies. It’s also important to gather their digital legacy. Know where you can find passwords for their online accounts. If applicable, gather the contact information for their accountant and financial advisor. 

Ensure they have a will and that it is up to date

If they are willing, discuss the beneficiaries and what their final wishes are. 

Discuss their current and future living arrangements

Learn what type of care they would prefer. Discuss a viable financial plan of how this will be paid for. 

Although difficult, honest and open conversations around money with your aging parents are important for both you and them. Having these conversations will provide clarity and peace of mind for the whole family.