Originally posted on the CUNA Financial Resource Center. Written by Spencer Carver.
Baby Boomers are retiring to the tune of 10,000+ employees per day. For many, this is an uncertain time. Declining health, mobility, and living on a fixed income can create some anxiety. Acknowledging and addressing these concerns can help ease their anxiety, as well as build and strengthen your relationship with your parents.
I have two sets of parents. Both are aging, retired, and are at very different points in their life. As I have pondered and researched how to have “the talks” with them, I have found these four tips to be critical in helping to provide support, guidance, and comfort.
1. Evaluate your own feelings and motivations BEFORE inviting your parents to talk.
Money is an emotional and often private affair. Before inviting them to talk, evaluate where you are emotionally. You may feel angered, frustrated, upset, fearful, or scared about their situation. Regardless of your emotional state, know that it is normal to be concerned about your parents aging and the state of their financial affairs. By evaluating your own feelings and motivations up front, you are more likely to be calm and collected during the dialogue.
2. Lead with a loving open invitation.
As you approach their financial situation with loving intentions, it allows your parents to see and feel that you care. Begin by acknowledging their potential roadblocks. For example, say, “I understand this may be difficult to discuss, but I care about you and want to make sure you’re financially stable during this period of your life. When would be a good time to discuss your plans and how I might be able to support you?”
3. Find the right time for the discussion.
Holidays, birthdays and other family gatherings might seem like an opportune time to talk, but they are often chaotic. It is best to avoid these times and seek out a quieter occasion to discuss their financial situation. While you may want to talk about it RIGHT NOW, your parents may need time to process and evaluate their own situation before addressing it with you. No doubt, waiting for the right time may be more challenging for you than for your parents. However, in this situation, your patience can pay off.
4. Allow your parents to have control whenever possible.
Watching your parents physical and mental health diminish is difficult. Most elderly parents recognize that there will come a time when they will need additional support, but they often don’t want to confront this reality. When discussing financial matters, it is critical to help them understand you are not trying to take over their life. It is an offer to help and provide support. Whenever possible, invite and encourage your parents to decide what issue to address and when. In doing so, you are demonstrating your support.