Talk to Your Parents about Their Money Plans

8 Tips for Getting the Conversation Started

Talking about money can be an uncomfortable, and even taboo, topic. But your parents’ financial situation isn’t a concept or a tradition they tried to instill in you. While most people don’t realize it, your parents’ finances don’t stop impacting you when you can fully support yourself. After all, what will it mean if you have to start supporting them – and not just by checking the expiration dates on the food in their house.

It may seem like it’s always younger people moving back in with their parents, but a study from the AARP, found that about one-third of people between 40 and 64 provided regular financial support to their parents.[1] A Pew Research Center study found similar results[2] to the AARP, an advocacy group for older Americans.

However your parents weathered the financial ups and downs of their working years, the situation greatly changes when they stop working. It is important for your future to know where your parents’ finances stand and how they intend to handle them over the remainder of their lives.

My parents worked hard to install an understanding of the value of money in my siblings and I, but were extremely close-lipped on the details of their financial situation until they saw the issues with caused when their parents (my grandparents) began to mentally and physically decline.

It’s important to talk to your parents about their retirement plans, regardless of their financial status. If they have no savings, you’ll need to know how much they’re going to need from you or other sources to get by when they can’t work. If they have a lot of money, it’s important to understand how and when they intend to transfer that money – to you and your siblings, other people, organizations, etc. And if they fall somewhere in the middle, like most people, you’ll need to know how long they’ll be able to support themselves on their savings or retirement income.

Previous generations may have paid of their mortgages and been content to eat leftovers, but Boomers seem to want to experience the carefree years Gen-Xers, Millenials and Zoomers have before having children. (Hello, my fellow childless 30-somethings. I know you know the years I’m talking about.)

If you haven’t talked yo your parents about their money plans before, you are not alone. In a small GoBankingRates survey, over 70% of respondents said they hadn’t had extensive financial talks with their parents. Even 66% of people who were themselves over 55 years old had not discussed their parents’ financial situation with them.[3]

Financial planners ask their clients what their plans are for retirement. Do you know what your parents intend to do?  Regardless of their goals or lifestyle, they will need some money to keep themselves afloat. The details are important whether they live into their 90s or only a few years past retirement.

The hardest part is starting the conversation. The reality won’t be nearly as unpleasant as you are thinking right now. Here are eight tips for when you’re ready to begin:

  1. Don’t dive in with too much too quickly. Bring up the conversation casually and then ask to discuss it in more depth at a scheduled later date. No one likes an ambush.
  2. Tell your parents you want to make sure you are able to provide them with the same level of care and support that they provided to you growing up.
  3. Make it clear you aren’t interested in trying to take their money or house; rather, you’re concerned about their financial well-being.
  4. If you have siblings, do your best to include them in the conversation.
  5. If they push back, explain why you want to talk about money. Perhaps a friend is having a bad situation with their family that you’d like to avoid; or tell them that your financial advisor and people who write annoying columns are pressuring you.
  6. Be ready to be open about your own financial situation. If you have been working on improving it, share what you have been doing.
  7. Don’t jump into the details right away. Try to get a general sense of your parents’ financial standing and goals for the future. Later on, ask for more details. Ideally, have them make a list of bank accounts with passwords, insurance information, and any estate planning documents like power of attorney (a document that says who can make financial decisions on their behalf). And go through “what if” scenarios while they are still theoretical conversations.
  8. Above all, listen to what they have to say. The point of the conversation is NOT for you to give them advice. Understanding the reality of the situation is the most important, not changing it. Try not to criticize past or present decisions. You may not understand the girls trips your mother takes every year, but they might be really important to her.

Talking to your parents about their financial plans can’t wait. And as difficult as these conversations might seem, the consequences of not having them can be far worse.


[1] https://www.aarp.org/research/topics/economics/info-2020/midlife-adults-providing-financial-support-to-family-members.html

[2] https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2013/01/30/financial-support-across-generations/#helping-parents-in-need

[3] https://www.gobankingrates.com/saving-money/family/americans-discuss-finances-aging-parents-survey/

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