Talking to Your Parents About Retirement

Most people consider financial matters a private affair, and only talk about it with their spouse or their financial advisor; but when it comes to retirement and long-term care Americans just can’t afford to be silent any longer. According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, “Nearly two in five adult children financially support parents 65 or older… and 86% of millennials expect to care for an aging parent or other elderly person in the future.” This means that while we may not want to talk about finances with our parents or children, chances are we’re going to have to, and the sooner the better.

Some parents won’t initially be comfortable talking about finances with their children, and many children will feel uncomfortable asking; but just because you have a conversation about finances doesn’t mean it has to be invasive. The article suggests starting off by asking your parents any questions you may have about getting your own retirement savings in order. “Ask your parents for advice on your own 401(k) or health-insurance plans and then ask them how they’ve handled their own. Then share any financial wisdom you have with them.”

Another way to start off the conversation is to simply ask your parents if they have any retirement or estate planning documents, and where you should look to find them if and when the time comes. This can be an opener to asking if there’s anything in their plan that they would like you to be aware of. “These [documents] typically include a will; a living will, which spells out what life-sustaining care a person wants; a financial power of attorney, which authorizes someone to undertake certain financial activities on behalf of a parent; life-insurance policies; information on bank, brokerage other financial accounts; and contact information for any lawyer, trustee or financial adviser.”

As more and more adult children find themselves helping their parents financially during retirement, it becomes more important than ever for those adult children to be involved in (or at least aware of) their parents retirement planning process. If you worry that your parents may need financial help in their golden years, it’s better to broach the subject sooner than later.

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