We worry about family members. We want to make sure our aging parents can afford to buy groceries and our adult kids are making wise financial decisions. The difficulty is figuring out how to find out whether a loved one needs help and offer guidance, without upsetting the other person. None of us enjoys being lectured or asked uncomfortable questions. Judging or criticizing your relatives does not help the situation. Here are some tips on how to talk with your adult kids or aging parents about money.
Do Not Ambush
The relative you are concerned about is coming over for dinner. You might think this is an ideal time to talk with him about his finances. Dad walks in the door, you take his coat and ask him, “So, have you made a will yet?” The likely result will be an awkward meal, and Dad might not accept your next invitation for dinner.
No one wants to get ambushed with questions about personal topics the minute they walk into someone’s home. Let him get settled in first, and find a private moment, away from everyone else, to talk with him. Unpleasant conversations are one reason many people dread holiday get-togethers with family.
Talk Instead of Judge
Whether you want to discuss financial topics with your aging parents or your adult child, you do not have the right to dictate to them what they should do. Your parents managed to get this far in life by taking care of themselves. Your adult children do not want you to lecture them any more than you would have welcomed that from your parents when you were the age of your children.
You might offer to help organize your aging parent’s financial documents. This is a constructive way to provide help, without making the person feel under attack. As you go through the papers together, you can talk about updating the will and getting a health care power of attorney, or other matters that concern you.
Choose Your Battles
Focus on one or two issues to discuss. You might think your adult children are failing miserably at managing their financial matters, but you should not try to overhaul their budget (or lack of one), spending habits, student loan debt, credit card usage, retirement planning, emergency savings and term life insurance in one conversation. Prioritize, choose one or two subjects and go slowly to avoid push-back.
A quick way to get your aging parents to stop talking to you about personal matters, is to badger them about long-term care insurance, estate planning documents, asset protection and retirement income all at the same time. Provide information for your parents but leave the decisions to them.
Preview the Conversation
No one likes to get blind-sided. Mention to your adult children or your aging parents that you would like to talk with them about financial topics, estate planning, or whatever the issue is. Agree on a convenient time and place. A park or a restaurant where you can hold a private conversation are viable options, since neither person has “home field advantage” and both can leave whenever they want to.
The important thing is that you communicate respectfully with each other. Being able to discuss these personal topics, can strengthen your relationships and give peace of mind to everyone involved.
AARP. “5 Tips for Discussing Money Matters with Family.” (accessed July 11, 2019) https://www.aarp.org/caregiving/financial-legal/info-2017/family-finances-money.html?intcmp=AE-CAR-LEG-EOA1
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