If your family is like most, talking about money is difficult under the best of circumstances. When it comes to your aging parents, it can be even harder.
To start with, no matter how old you are, many in your parents' generation are just plain uncomfortable talking about money with the "kids." On the other hand, it may seem like you're taking on the parent role - something that can be awkward for all of you. And finally, like it or not, the underlying message is about your parents' possible incapacity and eventual death.
Given all this, I know how troubling these conversations can be. But I also feel that with love, concern and some thoughtful preparation, this type of financial conversation can be positive. After all, it's about life - your parents' life goals, preserving the quality of their lives now and in the future, and the legacy that represents their lifelong achievements.
GETTING OFF TO A GOOD START
Be sensitive and pick the right moment to start the conversation. For example, it may be as simple as talking about your own need to do some estate planning. A line such as "We realize we need to start on an estate plan. How did you do yours?" could open the door to a fruitful and caring discussion.
Whatever your opening line, be sure your parents understand that your motivation is concern for them, not for yourself.
TAKING CARE OF THE PRESENT
For the first part of your conversation with your parents, focus on the present. What is their current financial situation? Do they have enough to live on for the years ahead? Are they confident in their investments or might they need some help managing them?
Your parents may have some unspoken goals or dreams that you can help them fulfill. Above all, let them know that your goal is to make sure they're comfortable now and well cared for in the future.
This can also be a good time to talk about insurance coverage. You may ask about their Medicare supplement plan and make sure they've done what they need to regarding prescription drug coverage. With changing laws and increasing choices, they may welcome your help in understanding their options and taking any necessary action.
Long-term care is another important topic. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, at least 60 percent of people over age 65 will require some type of long-term care service at some point in their lives. Have your parents considered this possibility and do they have resources for handling this type of need?
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