When to start talking to older parents regarding their finances (and how to do it?)

Non-investing personal finance issues including insurance, credit, real estate, taxes, employment and legal issues such as trusts and wills
Post Reply
onourway
Posts: 452
Joined: Thu Dec 08, 2016 3:39 pm

When to start talking to older parents regarding their finances (and how to do it?)

Post by onourway » Fri May 26, 2017 5:19 am

I'd like to get some advice from you folks here on the subject of when and how to start discussing financial details with ones parents as they age.

My parents are separated and both re-married, each around 70, both still working. My wife's parents are about the same age, still together, and retired.

On my side of the family my mother is less well off and I'm worried that they will not have enough. My father, I believe is ok. His wife is somewhat younger so I would expect her to outlive him by a great deal.

I guess I'm not sure what, if any, steps I should be taking at this point in time in terms of discussing future needs/wants/plans, etc. I have no expectation for nor need of any inheritance - I would just like to be better informed in case something happens sooner than later. Of the immediate family, I am likely to be the one called upon to deal with the estates.

We've never talked much about money as a family so I suppose I don't know where to start. For those of you who have done this (or haven't) with your parents (or children), I would like to hear your feedback of what's appropriate or not, what's been helpful or harmful in your own experience. I have a feeling that my parents solution is to ignore things until they have no other choice, but I have a feeling there is a better way.

Thank you!

User avatar
BL
Posts: 7367
Joined: Sun Mar 01, 2009 2:28 pm

Re: When to start talking to older parents regarding their finances (and how to do it?)

Post by BL » Fri May 26, 2017 7:32 am

Money can be a very sensitive subject so tread lightly.

Perhaps they are considering how to advise you on your finances. How would you react if a parent started making suggestions or wanted to take a look at your finances? Unless you had asked for help, would you really appreciate it? Unless you learn that they are falling for scams, making extreme decisions (we can all be foolish some of the time), or see other obvious signs of incompetence, I would be very cautious.

Maybe giving them the new Jane Bryant Quinn book, How to Make Your Money Last, would be less intrusive. If you read it first, it could possibly be a subject of discussion, depending on circumstances. She also has topics on AARP blog. It is sometimes easier to talk about general topics than getting specific with an individual. Being cautious about insurance and investment "advisors" is a topic everyone may need to consider. Is "my guy" promoting expensive investment or insurance products?

As nearly a decade "older parent", I still think I know about as much as I need to about finances. There may well come a time when I need help, and I hope I will ask for help, or they will notice if I am in mental decline. If you spend time with them, these things may become obvious. Note that physical decline is not the same as mental decline.

By the way, our senior Boglehead, as well as Mr. Bogle himself, are a couple decades older and still seem to manage very well.

onourway
Posts: 452
Joined: Thu Dec 08, 2016 3:39 pm

Re: When to start talking to older parents regarding their finances (and how to do it?)

Post by onourway » Fri May 26, 2017 7:43 am

Thank you BL.

I guess I should clarify - I think that I am not looking to get involved in their finances per se, other than to generally know what they want and expect later in life. It seems like in so many cases people pass and there is no clear understanding of what they would have wanted, what they have and how it is held, how to access it and so on. This can cause family friction, cause the surviving partners undue monetary stress, and so on. If there is a way to delicately handle these issues beforehand, I would like to have at least made the effort.

Perhaps the answer is that I should do nothing and just let it be - that would be fine - but I have learned so much from people on this board that I felt that I could probably learn about how other people deal with - or would like to have dealt with - this sensitive issue as well.

NotWhoYouThink
Posts: 1410
Joined: Fri Dec 26, 2014 4:19 pm

Re: When to start talking to older parents regarding their finances (and how to do it?)

Post by NotWhoYouThink » Fri May 26, 2017 7:56 am

You could volunteer what you are doing.
"We just set up our wills and POAs with an attorney, and chose Betty Jo as executor and brother Bob as guardian for the kids if necessary, I feel better now that is done. Anything I need to know about your plans?"
And then accept that you may learn nothing.

We knew nothing about MIL/FILs situation (except what you could see just by observing their behavior) until she had died and he had slipped too far into dementia to hide any more. Not that there were any problems, but if there had been there would have been nothing for us to do about it because they chose not to share. The oldest sibling knows my mom's situation well enough, so we're ok there.

I understand the desire to know your risks and opportunities, but people are allowed to be secretive, or sneaky, or foolish, or open, or whatever they choose. Accepting the things you cannot change and all that.

Good luck.

User avatar
plannerman
Posts: 646
Joined: Wed Feb 21, 2007 10:42 pm
Location: NC Mountains

Re: When to start talking to older parents regarding their finances (and how to do it?)

Post by plannerman » Fri May 26, 2017 8:01 am

What BL said!

plannerman

User avatar
lthenderson
Posts: 2470
Joined: Tue Feb 21, 2012 12:43 pm
Location: Iowa

Re: When to start talking to older parents regarding their finances (and how to do it?)

Post by lthenderson » Fri May 26, 2017 8:47 am

I have been in discussions with my parents about their financial situation only in terms of what they want after they are deceased and they brought up the subject. Probably the only reason it was brought up is that as the current law is written, there will be tax implications.

I think it is probably okay to ask about a will and where it is located should it need to be found in the future but I think I would steer away from all financial discussions unless they bring it up. How much they tell you about what is in the will is up to them.

The Wizard
Posts: 11115
Joined: Tue Mar 23, 2010 1:45 pm
Location: Reading, MA

Re: When to start talking to older parents regarding their finances (and how to do it?)

Post by The Wizard » Fri May 26, 2017 9:10 am

No simple answer to the OP's question.
Some of us oldies (I'm 67) know quite a bit about retirement finances and are in good shape.
Others presumably don't and aren't.

Treading carefully and assessing the situation is step one.
Is anyone asking for help may be step two...
Attempted new signature...

User avatar
simplesimon
Posts: 3002
Joined: Mon Feb 25, 2008 8:53 pm
Location: Boston, MA

Re: When to start talking to older parents regarding their finances (and how to do it?)

Post by simplesimon » Fri May 26, 2017 10:24 am

Say you saw an article online and it made you think of them. See if they're interested in carrying the discussion forward.

RudyS
Posts: 838
Joined: Tue Oct 27, 2015 10:11 am

Re: When to start talking to older parents regarding their finances (and how to do it?)

Post by RudyS » Fri May 26, 2017 10:50 am

simplesimon wrote:Say you saw an article online and it made you think of them. See if they're interested in carrying the discussion forward.
+1

delamer
Posts: 3246
Joined: Tue Feb 08, 2011 6:13 pm

Re: When to start talking to older parents regarding their finances (and how to do it?)

Post by delamer » Fri May 26, 2017 11:07 am

A lot depends on your relationship with your parents, but I'd approach it as " Can you let me know where there is a copy of your will or the name of the attorney who drew it up? I'd like to know how to find out about your wishes if needed."

That language assumes that they have been responsible and done planning. It approaches them assuming that they have been looking after their affairs -- that they have a will and related documents. In other words, that they are adults.

With a little luck, this will open up a discussion of wills, funeral plans, inheritances and their overall financial situation. If they haven't done any planning, then maybe this will be the impetus.

I knew all the details of my parents' finances once they retired. At first, all we knew about my in-laws' affairs was where all the documents were kept. Now we have the details.

Some people deal with their mortality by denying it and refusing to plan, or refusing to share information because they convince themselves that their heirs just want to get their hands on their money. Others realize that their children/grandchildren are the people best equipped be ensure their wishes are carried out, and become more open to sharing.

Good luck.

goingup
Posts: 2838
Joined: Tue Jan 26, 2010 1:02 pm

Re: When to start talking to older parents regarding their finances (and how to do it?)

Post by goingup » Fri May 26, 2017 11:11 am

When to start talking? When they ask for your help.

Unless someone is struggling, it doesn't seem like just being in one's 70's indicates much of anything.

Gnirk
Posts: 700
Joined: Sun Sep 09, 2012 3:11 am
Location: Western Washington

Re: When to start talking to older parents regarding their finances (and how to do it?)

Post by Gnirk » Fri May 26, 2017 11:20 am

NotWhoYouThink wrote:You could volunteer what you are doing.
"We just set up our wills and POAs with an attorney, and chose Betty Jo as executor and brother Bob as guardian for the kids if necessary, I feel better now that is done. Anything I need to know about your plans?"
And then accept that you may learn nothing.

Good luck.
This is how I approached it with my widowed mom, who never discussed such things. Within a month, she met with an attorney, and updated her Will, Durable Power of Attorney, and Health Care Directive. She also shared with me that she had LTCI and was financially secure because of my dad's excellent Pension and her investments. BTW, she was always very frugal, and bought nearly everything from a thrift shop where she volunteered.

I am now in my 70's, and have provided my children the information they need to know about my financial situation and necessary documents.

NotWhoYouThink
Posts: 1410
Joined: Fri Dec 26, 2014 4:19 pm

Re: When to start talking to older parents regarding their finances (and how to do it?)

Post by NotWhoYouThink » Fri May 26, 2017 12:21 pm

goingup wrote:When to start talking? When they ask for your help.

Unless someone is struggling, it doesn't seem like just being in one's 70's indicates much of anything.
There are at least 2 things adult children should know from their parents:
- If you live a long life, will you be needing financial support from me?
- If you drop dead tomorrow, how have you documented what you want done with your stuff?

That doesn't presume that the parents need any help at all, or that they owe their offspring an inheritance. But if your adult kids don't know the answer to those 2 questions than you should correct that situation.

User avatar
celia
Posts: 7168
Joined: Sun Mar 09, 2008 6:32 am
Location: SoCal

Re: When to start talking to older parents regarding their finances (and how to do it?)

Post by celia » Fri May 26, 2017 12:24 pm

I recommend you start by talking about yourself/your family's finances while asking for an opinion from them. For example, "We are thinking of maxing out our employer retirement plans but are worried that that will leaving us less money for current spending. Do you have any ideas that will help us make this kind of decision? (pause for response) Did you ever have to decide this?." Make it about a real financial concern you have that they might have had. Don't start with "We are thinking of investing in mutual fund A or mutual fund B but can't decide". If they don't know what a mutual fund is or never invested in one, that conversation is over before it even begins.

I imagine that when people are still working at 70, they either didn't plan for retirement, or just love their job so much they will keep working until they can't. If you have kids who are minors, have them ask their grandparents what kind of work they do and if they like it (when you are around to hear the answer). Better yet, for a historical perspective, have you/your kid record the elders asking them about every job they ever had and how they got the job. This will be good for both generations. The recording will be good for a start to your family history. You never know when they will pass on and you/the kids will never get another chance to ever ask them. Hint: only one person should be talking at a time when the recording is going on.

Other opening topics you can use are:
"I was reading about Medicare and how people often decide between a supplemental/Medigap plan to cover the part that Social Security doesn't pay, else they get an Advantage (HMO) plan. How did you decide what you chose?" (You don't have to pick either, such as if your employer plan still covers you or you are willing to pay the 20% that SS doesn't cover. But the Medicare Advantage plans are basically "free" so I don't know why someone wouldn't at least sign up for them if they are not working. Medicare basically pays the premium to the HMO instead of paying out your claims.) Obviously if they are over 70, they have already started Social Security and most likely took it as soon as possible, at age 62. That is the most common start age since many (most?) people think they should do it since "everyone else" is.

"We're thinking of buying a new car, but see they are so expensive compared to used. We'd rather not take out loans, since you end up paying back a lot more than what you borrowed. Did you ever have to decide between new and used because of having to take a loan or not." (This may not work if they took out loans for every car they ever bought.)

"We'd like to buy xxx but we don't have enough money set aside in our budget for it. We don't want to put it on credit cards since it will take us about a year to pay it off and the interest rate of credit cards is horrid these days. We are thinking of re-arranging our budget to spend less on (vacations) and (entertainment). Have you ever done that? Did you regret that?"

These questions tend to find out what they know and will be a window into if they even have savings or not. The conversation may even "educate" them a little, enough to give them pause the next time that they buy a car, take out a loan, or whatever they do. Since your parents are both in other marriages now, it might be best to ask these questions in front of the parent and spouse. You might be able to see if one person has a stronger influence on finances than the other or if they both think the same or not.

saladdin
Posts: 535
Joined: Wed May 05, 2010 5:45 pm

Re: When to start talking to older parents regarding their finances (and how to do it?)

Post by saladdin » Fri May 26, 2017 12:44 pm

If they are mentally competent you have no standing to butt in. If they ask, help. Otherwise let adults live their own life.

saladdin
Posts: 535
Joined: Wed May 05, 2010 5:45 pm

Re: When to start talking to older parents regarding their finances (and how to do it?)

Post by saladdin » Fri May 26, 2017 12:47 pm

NotWhoYouThink wrote:
goingup wrote:When to start talking? When they ask for your help.

Unless someone is struggling, it doesn't seem like just being in one's 70's indicates much of anything.
There are at least 2 things adult children should know from their parents:
- If you live a long life, will you be needing financial support from me?
- If you drop dead tomorrow, how have you documented what you want done with your stuff?

That doesn't presume that the parents need any help at all, or that they owe their offspring an inheritance. But if your adult kids don't know the answer to those 2 questions than you should correct that situation.
In no way should anyone have the right to "know" unless the other wants them.

"Mom/Dad, we just met with our lawyer to do our will and other planning. Do you want his number?" that's where it should end.

User avatar
Mlm
Posts: 163
Joined: Sat Apr 09, 2016 6:00 pm

Re: When to start talking to older parents regarding their finances (and how to do it?)

Post by Mlm » Fri May 26, 2017 12:51 pm

NotWhoYouThink wrote: There are at least 2 things adult children should know from their parents:
- If you live a long life, will you be needing financial support from me?
- If you drop dead tomorrow, how have you documented what you want done with your stuff?

That doesn't presume that the parents need any help at all, or that they owe their offspring an inheritance. But if your adult kids don't know the answer to those 2 questions than you should correct that situation.
+1
Reality has a way of catching up with you

onourway
Posts: 452
Joined: Thu Dec 08, 2016 3:39 pm

Re: When to start talking to older parents regarding their finances (and how to do it?)

Post by onourway » Fri May 26, 2017 1:02 pm

Thank you all for the thoughts. I do appreciate all points of view here.
delamer wrote:A lot depends on your relationship with your parents, but I'd approach it as " Can you let me know where there is a copy of your will or the name of the attorney who drew it up? I'd like to know how to find out about your wishes if needed."

That language assumes that they have been responsible and done planning. It approaches them assuming that they have been looking after their affairs -- that they have a will and related documents. In other words, that they are adults.

With a little luck, this will open up a discussion of wills, funeral plans, inheritances and their overall financial situation. If they haven't done any planning, then maybe this will be the impetus.

I knew all the details of my parents' finances once they retired. At first, all we knew about my in-laws' affairs was where all the documents were kept. Now we have the details.

Some people deal with their mortality by denying it and refusing to plan, or refusing to share information because they convince themselves that their heirs just want to get their hands on their money. Others realize that their children/grandchildren are the people best equipped be ensure their wishes are carried out, and become more open to sharing.

Good luck.
I like this way of going about it. I know that they are all basically doing the right things - but I also feel like there are 3 sets of parents of all about the same age and means who are likely to lean on us in one way or another around the same time. That could be next week or 25 years from now. Who knows?
NotWhoYouThink wrote:
There are at least 2 things adult children should know from their parents:
- If you live a long life, will you be needing financial support from me?
- If you drop dead tomorrow, how have you documented what you want done with your stuff?

That doesn't presume that the parents need any help at all, or that they owe their offspring an inheritance. But if your adult kids don't know the answer to those 2 questions than you should correct that situation.
I am inclined to agree. I don't need to know specific details now, but given that I will more than likely be the one left in charge when the time comes, it feels reasonable to have some idea what they are expecting.

User avatar
TNL
Posts: 313
Joined: Sat Jul 25, 2015 2:13 pm

Re: When to start talking to older parents regarding their finances (and how to do it?)

Post by TNL » Fri May 26, 2017 1:17 pm

onourway wrote:Thank you BL.

I guess I should clarify - I think that I am not looking to get involved in their finances per se, other than to generally know what they want and expect later in life. It seems like in so many cases people pass and there is no clear understanding of what they would have wanted, what they have and how it is held, how to access it and so on. This can cause family friction, cause the surviving partners undue monetary stress, and so on. If there is a way to delicately handle these issues beforehand, I would like to have at least made the effort.

Perhaps the answer is that I should do nothing and just let it be - that would be fine - but I have learned so much from people on this board that I felt that I could probably learn about how other people deal with - or would like to have dealt with - this sensitive issue as well.
I think you are being a responsible child and commend you. I agree with the posters previously who suggested forwarding an article and seeing if they want to carry the discussion forward.

Let me share with you all what happens when the parents are NOT responsible and DO NOT plan ahead. It can turn into a real mess, FAST. My ex-spouse's mother was unexpectedly diagnosed at age 73 with stage 4 inoperable lung cancer. Literally, she was fine one day and in a hospital bed the next, on morphine and unable to handle finances, business affairs, etc. We lived in another state and were in our mid 30s at the time. This was in 2009. Ex-spouse was reluctant to get involved with the finances with mother's new husband, and by that, I mean, simply making sure that the bills were getting paid. This went on for a month or two, and everyone was assuming that someone else was paying the bills and getting things done. Ex-spouse did not have bank passwords or even know where all of the mother's accounts were. Fast forward two months and finally late notices and notices to cut off the electric and water started showing up at the house. Now the money was in the accounts, it was just finding them that was the problem. Mother's new husband was just out in left field and barely able to function at this point (and who could blame him, his new wife was terminally ill) and nothing had been paid. He didn't even know where they banked. We (ex-spouse and I) spent literally hours on the phone with the power company, bank, American Express, HOA, etc., etc., getting things caught up. The water was about a week from getting shut off. I explained the situation and almostalmost every institution waived the late fees on the mortgage, HOA dues, etc. But it was an extremely stressful time for everyone, made compounded by the fact that the family matriarch was dying. It was awful. Lots of miscommunications and misunderstandings among everyone and could have been totally avoided if the conversation had been had about, what are the monthly bills? Which account pays these? How much is it? Where are your bank accounts? What are the passwords so we can get in and do your banking for you? So I would definitely suggest having the conversation.

Mudpuppy
Posts: 5476
Joined: Sat Aug 27, 2011 2:26 am
Location: Sunny California

Re: When to start talking to older parents regarding their finances (and how to do it?)

Post by Mudpuppy » Fri May 26, 2017 1:58 pm

onourway wrote:I like this way of going about it. I know that they are all basically doing the right things - but I also feel like there are 3 sets of parents of all about the same age and means who are likely to lean on us in one way or another around the same time. That could be next week or 25 years from now. Who knows?
If you know they are basically doing the right things and you're primarily concerned about your responsibilities should their health decline or they pass, why not approach it from that perspective? Something along the lines of "I've really been stressed lately over what you'll need from me should there be a health crisis or the worst happens. Could we talk about it now while everyone is healthy? It would be a big help to me to know what you expect."

FoolMeOnce
Posts: 48
Joined: Mon Apr 24, 2017 11:16 am

Re: When to start talking to older parents regarding their finances (and how to do it?)

Post by FoolMeOnce » Fri May 26, 2017 3:29 pm

saladdin wrote:
NotWhoYouThink wrote:
There are at least 2 things adult children should know from their parents:
- If you live a long life, will you be needing financial support from me?
- If you drop dead tomorrow, how have you documented what you want done with your stuff?

That doesn't presume that the parents need any help at all, or that they owe their offspring an inheritance. But if your adult kids don't know the answer to those 2 questions than you should correct that situation.
In no way should anyone have the right to "know" unless the other wants them.
I disagree. Someone should have a right to know if their parent expects to rely on them for financial support in the future. That directly impacts a person's choices in the present. - spending, saving, even when to retire.

mnnice
Posts: 242
Joined: Sat Aug 11, 2012 5:48 pm

Re: When to start talking to older parents regarding their finances (and how to do it?)

Post by mnnice » Fri May 26, 2017 3:42 pm

saladdin wrote:If they are mentally competent you have no standing to butt in. If they ask, help. Otherwise let adults live their own life.
As the adult child of a mentally competent 70 something parent it is frustrating. My parent seems to think it is disloyal to her deceased spouse to move (even though she lives on a large acreage and is not remotely handy). She's also lost her sharpness driving and has built up investing as insanely complex and beyond her (although that she could DIY).

Doom&Gloom
Posts: 1526
Joined: Thu May 08, 2014 3:36 pm

Re: When to start talking to older parents regarding their finances (and how to do it?)

Post by Doom&Gloom » Fri May 26, 2017 7:50 pm

goingup wrote:When to start talking? When they ask for your help.

Unless someone is struggling, it doesn't seem like just being in one's 70's indicates much of anything.
saladdin wrote:If they are mentally competent you have no standing to butt in. If they ask, help. Otherwise let adults live their own life.
This is the camp I am in.

I would feel insulted, hurt, offended, or outraged if my adult children approached me on this subject. But maybe the quality of prior communication makes a big difference here.

The fact that parents have remarried adds another layer of complexity.

I would be far more comfortable staying out of other people's business unless asked for opinions, help, advice, etc. And I would hope that the other party would as well.

NotWhoYouThink
Posts: 1410
Joined: Fri Dec 26, 2014 4:19 pm

Re: When to start talking to older parents regarding their finances (and how to do it?)

Post by NotWhoYouThink » Fri May 26, 2017 8:55 pm

Doom&Gloom wrote:
goingup wrote:When to start talking? When they ask for your help.

Unless someone is struggling, it doesn't seem like just being in one's 70's indicates much of anything.
saladdin wrote:If they are mentally competent you have no standing to butt in. If they ask, help. Otherwise let adults live their own life.
This is the camp I am in.

I would feel insulted, hurt, offended, or outraged if my adult children approached me on this subject. But maybe the quality of prior communication makes a big difference here.

The fact that parents have remarried adds another layer of complexity.

I would be far more comfortable staying out of other people's business unless asked for opinions, help, advice, etc. And I would hope that the other party would as well.
What have you done to assure your adult children that you will not be needing their financial backing in your old age, and what have you told them about your estate planning and how to access your financial information? If your kids have all the information they need, this post is not about you. If they are in the dark, why have you left them there?

Doom&Gloom
Posts: 1526
Joined: Thu May 08, 2014 3:36 pm

Re: When to start talking to older parents regarding their finances (and how to do it?)

Post by Doom&Gloom » Fri May 26, 2017 9:15 pm

NotWhoYouThink wrote:
Doom&Gloom wrote:
goingup wrote:When to start talking? When they ask for your help.

Unless someone is struggling, it doesn't seem like just being in one's 70's indicates much of anything.
saladdin wrote:If they are mentally competent you have no standing to butt in. If they ask, help. Otherwise let adults live their own life.
This is the camp I am in.

I would feel insulted, hurt, offended, or outraged if my adult children approached me on this subject. But maybe the quality of prior communication makes a big difference here.

The fact that parents have remarried adds another layer of complexity.

I would be far more comfortable staying out of other people's business unless asked for opinions, help, advice, etc. And I would hope that the other party would as well.
What have you done to assure your adult children that you will not be needing their financial backing in your old age, and what have you told them about your estate planning and how to access your financial information? If your kids have all the information they need, this post is not about you. If they are in the dark, why have you left them there?
I am well aware the post is not about me. But I am about the same age as OP's parents, and I do know how I would feel and probably how I would react if I were asked about this at this point in my life--and maybe even for the next several years.

But all families are different, so carry on ...

Beth*
Posts: 721
Joined: Wed Apr 30, 2014 9:57 am

Re: When to start talking to older parents regarding their finances (and how to do it?)

Post by Beth* » Fri May 26, 2017 9:26 pm

It is, unfortunately, a very difficult topic for some people. I have tried to make it easy for my adult children: I put together a document that tells them where to find our wills, legal and medical powers of attorney, life insurance, and long term care policies, as well as all financial accounts we have (Vanguard, employer retirement accounts, bank accounts). They don't know how much money we have, there is no reason they need to know that, but if anyone thing happened to us the document would guide them on where to find what they need. I review the document every January to see if it needs updating.

I have told my almost 90 year old father I did this and suggested he do the same for me, but so far he has not. I know I am the executor of his will, and I know where to find the will, but beyond that I know very little. Lately, when I visit him he has started giving me small pieces of information, on the last visit he told me what bank he has accounts at, but if he were to die I know it would take me a while to put everything together. I don't think he has a lot of savings or investments, he is one of the lucky people who has an excellent inflation-indexed pension so he can live comfortably on that plus social security. If he didn't have the pension I would worry a lot more. The one thing that will probably allow me to eventually figure this out is that he doesn't use a computer so I assume that if he has assets they must be mailing him statements and tax forms. I don't understand why it is so hard for him to share this information with me when he trusts me enough to name me executor of his will, but it is and i have come to accept the fact that there is nothing I can do about it.

Sandi_k
Posts: 462
Joined: Sat May 16, 2015 11:55 am
Location: SF Bay Area

Re: When to start talking to older parents regarding their finances (and how to do it?)

Post by Sandi_k » Sat May 27, 2017 1:31 am

Doom&Gloom wrote:
I am well aware the post is not about me. But I am about the same age as OP's parents, and I do know how I would feel and probably how I would react if I were asked about this at this point in my life--and maybe even for the next several years.

But all families are different, so carry on ...
I find it weird that you would be hurt and insulted by any questions from your kids. Presumably one of them is your executor. You're (apparently) near 70 yo.

Why would you be insulted or hurt that your kid wants to do the right thing WHEN you die? Average expectancies mean little...I had a colleague at work collapse yesterday on his way to lunch. Literally he folded walking out the door, and landed on the concrete face-first. The responding EMTs/PD thought he was dead. Happily, he's not, but he's in the hospital, and not entirely lucid - not sure if it's head trauma, or what.

He's 62, an avid exerciser, thin, non-smoker...truly sobering.

It triggered a conversation for me with my mom, who just turned 80. I know I'll be her executrix, and I am quite concerned about maintaining reasonable relations with my siblings, and not getting financially shackled to my sister and her husband. My mom said she'd like to make sure that my sister could buy mom's house. She was thinking of including that in her will. I had to point out that sis might not have resources to buy myself and another sibling out; that sis will be grieving; that burdening me with trying to get sis into the house might mean that the two non-resident siblings serve as landlords...non of which is fair to us.

Mom had frankly not done the math, or thought it through. After a 20 minute conversation, she agreed that a 4-6 month window for sis to ante up was reasonable, but anything longer would be a problem. For which I am grateful.

There are real reasons for having at least *some* discussion about this before you're suddenly dead on a sidewalk. If you don't want to talk about it, make sure that your "I'm Dead" file or notebook is easy to find in your home offie. I have such a document on my laptop, and my spouse knows about it. Getting insulted over a natural progression of aging is just...weird, IMO.

User avatar
BL
Posts: 7367
Joined: Sun Mar 01, 2009 2:28 pm

Re: When to start talking to older parents regarding their finances (and how to do it?)

Post by BL » Sat May 27, 2017 7:59 am

I think you will find all kinds of parents and all kinds of kids so what works for one may not work for others.

First be sure you (younger folks) have all of your finances and other paperwork set up for your heirs, so you can talk to your parents about that. Maybe ask for suggestions as well; who knows, they may even have some valuable suggestions. Your dependents may need you to do this even more than your parents who have at most a spouse to look out for. Then, a question or so about if parents are also prepared, and where they keep important documents in case they are needed, could be asked. If they are not ready to talk you may need to drop it, but it may prompt them to take care of things anyway.

If a parent has had multiple car accidents, for instance, you need to consider what must be done.
If they are falling prey to scams, that is a warning sign.
If bills are piling up, what can you do to help?
These are difficult things to handle with no easy solutions. It is especially difficult to handle at a distance.

Lynette
Posts: 1460
Joined: Sun Jul 27, 2014 9:47 am

Re: When to start talking to older parents regarding their finances (and how to do it?)

Post by Lynette » Sat May 27, 2017 8:38 am

One of the older ministers at my church used to tell the congregation about experiences he had with elderly people who died. One distressing tendency was where a will made unexpected distributions. This often resulted in lifelong animosity among family. I also read the book many here recommend called Beyond the Grave. The minister told us to explain to our heirs what our decisions were and to face any consequences and not cause animosity later when we passed away.

I had my will, POW etc. drawn up before I retired this year at the age of 73. I made my two brothers my heirs. I sent email copies of all of this to both brothers. I'm also simplifying my investments for this reason.

As mentioned a way might be to start to discuss what you are doing with your relatives. This forum has some great ideas. My mother shared all of her financial information with me before she died unexpectedly at 92. I think I started to discuss finances with her. She was sharp till the end.

delamer
Posts: 3246
Joined: Tue Feb 08, 2011 6:13 pm

Re: When to start talking to older parents regarding their finances (and how to do it?)

Post by delamer » Sat May 27, 2017 11:59 am

Sandi_k wrote:
Doom&Gloom wrote:
I am well aware the post is not about me. But I am about the same age as OP's parents, and I do know how I would feel and probably how I would react if I were asked about this at this point in my life--and maybe even for the next several years.

But all families are different, so carry on ...
I find it weird that you would be hurt and insulted by any questions from your kids. Presumably one of them is your executor. You're (apparently) near 70 yo.

Why would you be insulted or hurt that your kid wants to do the right thing WHEN you die? Average expectancies mean little...I had a colleague at work collapse yesterday on his way to lunch. Literally he folded walking out the door, and landed on the concrete face-first. The responding EMTs/PD thought he was dead. Happily, he's not, but he's in the hospital, and not entirely lucid - not sure if it's head trauma, or what.

He's 62, an avid exerciser, thin, non-smoker...truly sobering.

It triggered a conversation for me with my mom, who just turned 80. I know I'll be her executrix, and I am quite concerned about maintaining reasonable relations with my siblings, and not getting financially shackled to my sister and her husband. My mom said she'd like to make sure that my sister could buy mom's house. She was thinking of including that in her will. I had to point out that sis might not have resources to buy myself and another sibling out; that sis will be grieving; that burdening me with trying to get sis into the house might mean that the two non-resident siblings serve as landlords...non of which is fair to us.

Mom had frankly not done the math, or thought it through. After a 20 minute conversation, she agreed that a 4-6 month window for sis to ante up was reasonable, but anything longer would be a problem. For which I am grateful.

There are real reasons for having at least *some* discussion about this before you're suddenly dead on a sidewalk. If you don't want to talk about it, make sure that your "I'm Dead" file or notebook is easy to find in your home offie. I have such a document on my laptop, and my spouse knows about it. Getting insulted over a natural progression of aging is just...weird, IMO.
Good comments, Sandi_k. There should not be an assumption that if your children ask about your finances, that they are accusing you of being incompetent. Life's circumstances can turn on a dime, particularly as we age. Providing basic information on how they can access funds in the event of an emergency -- like the aforementioned colleague's -- or on end-of-life issues is a gift to your family in that the information can make their lives easier at a difficult time.

sleepwell
Posts: 24
Joined: Sun Jul 10, 2016 11:28 pm

Re: When to start talking to older parents regarding their finances (and how to do it?)

Post by sleepwell » Sun May 28, 2017 12:37 am

I was the executrix for both my mother and my aunt. Fortunately for me, my mother had a file folder containing every conceivable bit of information that I might need - not just her social security number and bank account information, but her dates of military service, date of marriage, date of divorce, phone numbers of retirement departments, copies and numbers of insurance policies, etc. She never would discuss money with me, just said "It's all in the box in my closet", and it was.

My aunt had a similar set-up with her information although she was much more verbal about her finances during her lifetime.

Contrast my situation with that of my ex-sister-in-law, who had to deal with her father's affairs after his death. No will. No information about anything. No deed for his home. It took her months to get his affairs straight, plus a lot of frustration and time.

Perhaps the OP could give the parents a list of basic information to be filled out 'for the future' or 'to make his life easier' or 'so he can make sure he doesn't miss anything'. A list is fairly simple and provides a starting point for deciding which information is important. If the OP is indeed asked to be the executor for the estates of his parents, then it would certainly be reasonable for him to request basic information so that he can perform his job when the time comes.

I've told my kids where all my information is. Out of three responsible adult children, only one was ever willing to listen and discuss my wishes for things pertaining to my death. So it isn't always the older parents who don't want to face mortality; often it is the younger folks who won't listen when the parents want to address the subject!

delamer
Posts: 3246
Joined: Tue Feb 08, 2011 6:13 pm

Re: When to start talking to older parents regarding their finances (and how to do it?)

Post by delamer » Sun May 28, 2017 10:31 am

sleepwell wrote:I was the executrix for both my mother and my aunt. Fortunately for me, my mother had a file folder containing every conceivable bit of information that I might need - not just her social security number and bank account information, but her dates of military service, date of marriage, date of divorce, phone numbers of retirement departments, copies and numbers of insurance policies, etc. She never would discuss money with me, just said "It's all in the box in my closet", and it was.

My aunt had a similar set-up with her information although she was much more verbal about her finances during her lifetime.

Contrast my situation with that of my ex-sister-in-law, who had to deal with her father's affairs after his death. No will. No information about anything. No deed for his home. It took her months to get his affairs straight, plus a lot of frustration and time.

Perhaps the OP could give the parents a list of basic information to be filled out 'for the future' or 'to make his life easier' or 'so he can make sure he doesn't miss anything'. A list is fairly simple and provides a starting point for deciding which information is important. If the OP is indeed asked to be the executor for the estates of his parents, then it would certainly be reasonable for him to request basic information so that he can perform his job when the time comes.

I've told my kids where all my information is. Out of three responsible adult children, only one was ever willing to listen and discuss my wishes for things pertaining to my death. So it isn't always the older parents who don't want to face mortality; often it is the younger folks who won't listen when the parents want to address the subject!
I agree that what your aunt did is great, and even your mother's plan is good. My father had a notebook instead of a file folder :happy

Yes, I don't understand the reluctance on part of adult children to discuss these issues. One of my sisters-in-law gets very upset when her parents' future estate comes up. As the saying goes "None of us gets out of here alive." You don't want to have to deal with preventable legal and tax issues, not to mention costs, when you are grieving.

TN_Boy
Posts: 193
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 12:51 pm

Re: When to start talking to older parents regarding their finances (and how to do it?)

Post by TN_Boy » Sun May 28, 2017 12:19 pm

Doom&Gloom wrote:
goingup wrote:When to start talking? When they ask for your help.

Unless someone is struggling, it doesn't seem like just being in one's 70's indicates much of anything.
saladdin wrote:If they are mentally competent you have no standing to butt in. If they ask, help. Otherwise let adults live their own life.
This is the camp I am in.

I would feel insulted, hurt, offended, or outraged if my adult children approached me on this subject. But maybe the quality of prior communication makes a big difference here.

The fact that parents have remarried adds another layer of complexity.

I would be far more comfortable staying out of other people's business unless asked for opinions, help, advice, etc. And I would hope that the other party would as well.
I stipulate that families differ in how they communicate, how responsible the children are, etc. That said, I'm always surprised how the "let adults live their own lives" camp doesn't understand how difficult this mindset can make life for the people around them.

When a parent dies, becomes seriously ill, or mentally incompetent*, it is usually the children that have to pick up the pieces. The less they know about the total picture in advance, the harder and more time-consuming this process becomes. This applies to finances, potential long term care arrangements, and related issues. So by keeping the kids "out of your business" you dump more work and more difficult decisions on them. Maybe a lot more. Hey, that's what kids are for, right? And that's if things like finances are actually okay. It's really a disaster if the parents are starting to have money problems and the children don't know this.

Take long term care. I mean, my heart thinks I'll always be able to take care of myself -- I'm healthy right now and mentally alert! But my head (and personal knowledge of multiple families) tells me I can get unlucky. Refusing to talk with children beforehand about what to do if you become incapacitated means your children have to make decisions without any input from you. Hope you like their choices! Another way of saying this is that by being doggedly "independent" and "living your own life" you are probably reducing your chances of having things go the way you want towards the end of your life. Or maybe you just figure that if you become incapacitated, your children will take you in and provide 24x7 care.

Of course, a healthy 20 year old can suddenly have major issues. But it is far more likely with people in their 60s, and especially 70s and 80s. To believe otherwise is denying reality, which is why I find it unfortunate when people this age don't have the necessary conversations with their children.

* Trust me. You are going to die, and you will probably have health issues before that happens. And you won't get a phone call from God beforehand telling you when to get your paperwork ready.

Dottie57
Posts: 2395
Joined: Thu May 19, 2016 5:43 pm

Re: When to start talking to older parents regarding their finances (and how to do it?)

Post by Dottie57 » Sun May 28, 2017 1:01 pm

I have known the general outlines of my parents finances for 30 years. My parents are as open withme as I have been with them.

Doom&Gloom
Posts: 1526
Joined: Thu May 08, 2014 3:36 pm

Re: When to start talking to older parents regarding their finances (and how to do it?)

Post by Doom&Gloom » Sun May 28, 2017 1:05 pm

TN_Boy wrote:
Doom&Gloom wrote:
goingup wrote:When to start talking? When they ask for your help.

Unless someone is struggling, it doesn't seem like just being in one's 70's indicates much of anything.
saladdin wrote:If they are mentally competent you have no standing to butt in. If they ask, help. Otherwise let adults live their own life.
This is the camp I am in.

I would feel insulted, hurt, offended, or outraged if my adult children approached me on this subject. But maybe the quality of prior communication makes a big difference here.

The fact that parents have remarried adds another layer of complexity.

I would be far more comfortable staying out of other people's business unless asked for opinions, help, advice, etc. And I would hope that the other party would as well.
I stipulate that families differ in how they communicate, how responsible the children are, etc. That said, I'm always surprised how the "let adults live their own lives" camp doesn't understand how difficult this mindset can make life for the people around them.

When a parent dies, becomes seriously ill, or mentally incompetent*, it is usually the children that have to pick up the pieces. The less they know about the total picture in advance, the harder and more time-consuming this process becomes. This applies to finances, potential long term care arrangements, and related issues. So by keeping the kids "out of your business" you dump more work and more difficult decisions on them. Maybe a lot more. Hey, that's what kids are for, right? And that's if things like finances are actually okay. It's really a disaster if the parents are starting to have money problems and the children don't know this.

Take long term care. I mean, my heart thinks I'll always be able to take care of myself -- I'm healthy right now and mentally alert! But my head (and personal knowledge of multiple families) tells me I can get unlucky. Refusing to talk with children beforehand about what to do if you become incapacitated means your children have to make decisions without any input from you. Hope you like their choices! Another way of saying this is that by being doggedly "independent" and "living your own life" you are probably reducing your chances of having things go the way you want towards the end of your life. Or maybe you just figure that if you become incapacitated, your children will take you in and provide 24x7 care.

Of course, a healthy 20 year old can suddenly have major issues. But it is far more likely with people in their 60s, and especially 70s and 80s. To believe otherwise is denying reality, which is why I find it unfortunate when people this age don't have the necessary conversations with their children.

* Trust me. You are going to die, and you will probably have health issues before that happens. And you won't get a phone call from God beforehand telling you when to get your paperwork ready.
I can't speak for anyone else, but I am not advocating "let the survivors sort it out." There is (or should have been) enough communication over the years to establish enough trust and confidence that an emergency summit meeting is not called for when a healthy, functioning person hits their 70th birthday. The adult children (at least in my case) know that I'm not going to hang anyone out to dry with a huge mess to sort out. They realize (through years of communication and by example) that if I haven't told them specifically about something, that it is something that I have already addressed in one way or another. I also have a spouse who is "up to speed," healthy, and functioning.

I think that most here agree that it is the parents' responsibility to take care of their business. The differing opinions seem to be at what point should an adult child begin to question what, if anything, they have done. In my case the answer is "not yet." I certainly do not presume to speak for others.

Things will almost certainly change for me in five years, ten years, etc, and my feelings may or may not change, but that was not the situation in the OP. Other families obviously have issues with this as exemplified in other posts itt. How people choose to approach it obviously varies all over the map. OP is considering approaching at least his own two parents who have never discussed much in the way of finances and have both re-married. He should be prepared for the possibility of a wide range of reactions from them--as well as from their new spouses.

3spots
Posts: 84
Joined: Mon Apr 03, 2017 3:54 pm

Re: When to start talking to older parents regarding their finances (and how to do it?)

Post by 3spots » Sun May 28, 2017 1:22 pm

I didn't see anyone mention Nolo Press book, "Get it Together" It is a workbook with a nice outline of all the information needed for your heirs: wills, burial info, accounts, personal wishes, final letter, etc.

I got it for myself, but it might be a neutral way to bring it up with parents. Tell them you've completed it for your family and where to find the notebook if anything should happen to you.

It is an excellent book and checklist. It was what prompted me to consolidate all my accounts -- and I am glad I am doing so.. it is hard enough for me, I can't imagine what it would be like for an heir to figure it out. I am still working through it six months later..

I sent a copy to my sister and she said she didn't want to do it because it reminded her of how ill-equipped she is for retirement. I suppose that emotional response could be one that parent's also have about being asked..

3spots

User avatar
bengal22
Posts: 1307
Joined: Sat Dec 03, 2011 6:20 pm
Location: Ohio

Re: When to start talking to older parents regarding their finances (and how to do it?)

Post by bengal22 » Sun May 28, 2017 3:07 pm

My parents are both 94 and I anticipate they will talk to me about finances soon.

Not Law
Posts: 146
Joined: Sun Sep 14, 2014 8:05 am

Re: When to start talking to older parents regarding their finances (and how to do it?)

Post by Not Law » Mon May 29, 2017 6:50 pm

After my father died, I volunteered to do my mother's taxes. This allowed for lots of discussions as I filled out her (relatively simple) tax returns each year. Interestingly, she insisted on providing the IRS with a hand written return - she did not want to raise any suspicions with a change to software generated forms.

Post Reply