How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

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cashheavy18
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How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by cashheavy18 » Sat Aug 11, 2018 9:19 pm

My parents are in their mid-70’s. No current financial concerns:

• house is paid for
• drawing SS
• taking out RMD’s
• not big spenders
• Dad continues with a very part-time consulting business, to stay mentally active in his line of work
• The vast majority of their assets are in individual stocks in a traditional IRA
• In relatively good health
• Given their spending habits their net assets (minus their home) are in good shape due to the stock market
• Dad follows the market on a daily basis and is very in tune with current economic news, geo-political events, etc.

Here’s why the question: Dad handles all of the finances, Mom isn’t involved. They thankfully made a will 5 years back. However, they are from a generation/culture where they don’t really want to talk about “what if” situations in the future as it would be regarded as not something appropriate to talk about.

My mom would like to have a better understanding of where they are financially, she has concerns at times that Dad’s investing might be riskier than what she’d like at this stage. She talks to me about this. I in turn talk to my Dad, but he says “everything is fine.”

What is the best way to have these discussions with parents who are doing fine now, but want to help them plan for those “what if” scenarios?

At a minimum, my Mom (and my siblings) would like my Dad to document all of their accounts and add one or more of us as an authorized person. Even if they lose all of their assets or run out of money, my siblings can and will take care of them financially. However, if we feel it would be prudent for my Dad to diversy his portfolio at this stage in life.

Siblings are all financially independent and we have no need or desire for an inheritance, just for the assets to be relatively safe for any upcoming financial needs my parents may have.

Would appreciate thoughts feedback from those that are retired parents who have had these types of conversations with their children or children who have successfully brought up this topic with their retired parents. How to go about it, especially if there is that view that certain topics are "taboo." Edit to clarify, based on responses so far. "what if/taboo" refers to death, health decline (something my Dad NEVER wants to discuss as it pertains to my parents).

Thanks in advance.
Last edited by cashheavy18 on Sun Aug 12, 2018 8:21 am, edited 1 time in total.

runner3081
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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by runner3081 » Sat Aug 11, 2018 10:10 pm

I wouldn't focus on his investment style, just leave that alone. Focus on tracking down where the assets are located.

Loik098
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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by Loik098 » Sat Aug 11, 2018 10:11 pm

cashheavy18 wrote:
Sat Aug 11, 2018 9:19 pm
My mom would like to have a better understanding of where they are financially, she has concerns at times that Dad’s investing might be riskier than what she’d like at this stage. She talks to me about this. I in turn talk to my Dad, but he says “everything is fine.”

At a minimum, my Mom (and my siblings) would like my Dad to document all of their accounts and add one or more of us as an authorized person. Even if they lose all of their assets or run out of money, my siblings can and will take care of them financially. However, if we feel it would be prudent for my Dad to diversy his portfolio at this stage in life.
If your mother doesn't have luck, you're in for a struggle.

I think you're on the right track with your suggestion of a "death box". Appeal to his sense of duty to his wife, ensuring that the stress following his death would be only from grieving his loss, and not also from having to dig through and figure out his affairs.

If this doesn't do it, I wish you luck. If his mental capacity begins to decline, things will only get worse.

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Peter Foley
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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by Peter Foley » Sat Aug 11, 2018 10:45 pm

Can this be put in "positive" terms. What would you like your legacy to be?

In my wife's family there is/was a saying "If perchance the inevitable . . ." These were instructions/advice for what to do that each of her parents wrote up. I have written such a letter for my wife and children.

One concrete example: A person has an IRA and names his children as the beneficiaries. How would he advise his children to withdraw the money? All at once, over 5 years, stretch IRA?

JBTX
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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by JBTX » Sat Aug 11, 2018 10:46 pm

I'm not sure how you have that conversation without being intrusive. My parents are older than this and I wouldn't dream of asking them to add me or siblings to their accounts or asking for detailed specifics. Your mom obviously has the right to ask those questions. I don't think kids do.

Flyer24
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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by Flyer24 » Sat Aug 11, 2018 11:19 pm

My parents are retired. My mom handles all the finances. I do the same in my family. I have an organized folder for my wife that list all the accounts and how to access as needed. I just spoke to my mom today about creating a binder with their information that could be accessed by me in the event something happens to her. Quicken actually has an organizer in their program. She was very receptive to the idea.

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Sheepdog
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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by Sheepdog » Sat Aug 11, 2018 11:41 pm

You could go about this in a different way, so as not to seem if you are prying. What if you told your parents about YOU. You wouldn't have to tell them about your finances (how much you make....how much you have saved of things like that)....but you could tell him your plans if you and your wife were to die together. You could tell them whom you wish to take care of your children (which is a great idea for everyone any way), that you have everything financial written down (brokers, bank accounts IRAs, etc.) and where that was located, once again "if something happened to us." "My will, POA, etc. are completed and they can be found at......(lawyer, safe, wherever.....") "I wanted you to know, Mom and Dad, just in case. How about you two? Do you have something like this? You know.....just in case? It would really help us, don't you think?" (You would not be asking about their finances, etc. just where their children could find the information....and where your Mom could find it also.)

By the way, on a side note which has little to add to your question, but we know of 2 couples friends who did die together in accidents. In one case, their extended families did not know their wishes for their children, etc. and they had money, both physicians. It was a special mess in that case (their car was hit by a train) where their wishes of whom would take care of their children if they passed, or where their accounts were located. There was a terrible battle in courts, lasting a year or more, between their families who all wanted the kids, and probably their inheritance.

As far as finances, and how your Mom and Dad communicate with each other, that is really up to them, I think. I don't think you want to hear "Frankly, Son, I have that all taken care of. She knows. It really isn't any of your business." Just tell them how you are handling yours...... Maybe, just maybe, he will think more.

By the way, I have had that conversation with our children about us. I never thought about them....what if they died together....etc.? We'll have to talk with them, maybe over Thanksgiving or Christmas when they visit. Hmmmmm
It's not what you gather, but what you scatter which tells what kind of life you have lived---Helen Walton

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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by tibbitts » Sun Aug 12, 2018 12:31 am

cashheavy18 wrote:
Sat Aug 11, 2018 9:19 pm
My parents are in their mid-70’s. No current financial concerns:

• house is paid for
• drawing SS
• taking out RMD’s
• not big spenders
• Dad continues with a very part-time consulting business, to stay mentally active in his line of work
• The vast majority of their assets are in individual stocks in a traditional IRA
• In relatively good health
• Given their spending habits their net assets (minus their home) are in good shape due to the stock market
• Dad follows the market on a daily basis and is very in tune with current economic news, geo-political events, etc.

Here’s why the question: Dad handles all of the finances, Mom isn’t involved. They thankfully made a will 5 years back. However, they are from a generation/culture where they don’t really want to talk about “what if” situations in the future as it would be regarded as not something appropriate to talk about.

My mom would like to have a better understanding of where they are financially, she has concerns at times that Dad’s investing might be riskier than what she’d like at this stage. She talks to me about this. I in turn talk to my Dad, but he says “everything is fine.”

What is the best way to have these dicussions with parents who are doing fine now, but want to help them plan for those “what if” scenarios?

At a minimum, my Mom (and my siblings) would like my Dad to document all of their accounts and add one or more of us as an authorized person. Even if they lose all of their assets or run out of money, my siblings can and will take care of them financially. However, if we feel it would be prudent for my Dad to diversy his portfolio at this stage in life.

Siblings are all financially indepenent and we have no need or desire for an inheritance, just for the assets to be relatively safe for any upcoming financial needs my parents may have.

Would appreicate thoughts feedback from those that are retired parents who have had these types of conversations with their children or children who have successfully brought up this topic with their retired parents. How to go about it, especially if there is that view that certain topics are "taboo."

Thanks in advance.
I don't see why it's awkward to bring up the need for documentation - no reasonable person wouldn't make available account numbers, passwords, etc. Your issues with asset allocation are another matter, though - you need to leave that alone unless/until there are competency issues.

smectym
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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by smectym » Sun Aug 12, 2018 1:00 am

I agree that clear documentation of where the money is and how surviving spouse can access it if need be should be available to spouse. On the other hand, the kids have no such presumptive right to a roadmap of assets, account numbers, passwords etc.

All these threads and articles one sees popping up now about “How to Have the Difficult Conversation With Mom and Dad” etc. rather leave me cold. Mom and Dad are generally doing fine financially without the kids’ help—in fact, their very success in accumulating financial assets is a key driver in stoking the kids’ solicitous interest.

Smectym

DC3509
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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by DC3509 » Sun Aug 12, 2018 1:44 am

smectym wrote:
Sun Aug 12, 2018 1:00 am
I agree that clear documentation of where the money is and how surviving spouse can access it if need be should be available to spouse. On the other hand, the kids have no such presumptive right to a roadmap of assets, account numbers, passwords etc.

All these threads and articles one sees popping up now about “How to Have the Difficult Conversation With Mom and Dad” etc. rather leave me cold. Mom and Dad are generally doing fine financially without the kids’ help—in fact, their very success in accumulating financial assets is a key driver in stoking the kids’ solicitous interest.

Smectym
As the author of one (or several) of those threads, I strongly disagree that the people who have authored such threads are snooping into our parents financial lives which are otherwise "fine." In fact, the reason why we are concerned about our parents finances is because we know that things are not fine, despite the glossy surface from mom and dad sometimes. The people who wrote these threads do not usually have parents who are sitting around on message boards like these. Our parents are more the typical American retiree right now -- retiring with far too few assets, going to end up on Medicaid someday (just like 2/3 of all seniors do), etc. Don't believe me? There were two excellent articles in the popular press over the last few weeks -- one is the WSJ, another in the NYT -- about how grisly things are out there for retirees, especially in lower cost of living areas.

My parents were never financial people, never ran retirement calculators or any of the like prior to retiring, and still do not understand many financial topics. They were loving, caring, well-meaning parents, and I love them very much, but simply put, they do not have this gene. They also generally did not discuss money growing up, such that I assumed things were generally OK. About two years ago, I realized that things were not generally OK and that my parents had a much lower acumen for this stuff than I originally thought. For children in this situation we have one of two choices -- just sit back and watch the train wreck, or try to do something to stop it, or at least change the course, a bit. There is nothing wrong with picking the latter option. And even if you did chose the first option -- the train might still wreck anyway and then you are left picking up the pieces. My DW and I have decided that we would rather play a more active role now and have some say-so in how this turns out rather than just leaving it completely up to luck. I know I have helped them avoid multiple financial mistakes over the past two years. They have appreciated my input and repeatedly tell me that I know way more about this stuff than they do, and they are so happy and appreciative that I have helped them.

For the OP -- his situation doesn't sound as dire as mine or some of the others I have seen, but I think OP has a right to be concerned. What if Dad has invested the whole portfolio in Facebook and Google because those are the two stocks he read about in some financial porn? What if those stocks tank, as Facebook has over the past few weeks? Losing all your money in a Vanguard Index Fund would take a catastrophic event not seen since the Great Depression; losing all your money in a few tech stocks happens every couple of years. What is the Plan B? The Plan B of course is that the children and siblings will take care of mom and dad. So, the children are just supposed to butt out of things now even though dad might be committing financial suicide. Is that really wise?

I know and understand that some of this is a generational thing. But I also think the parents who post to these threads need to appreciate how atypical they are with money (the fact that you post to this Board makes you extremely atypical), and how typical (in a bad way) some parents are.

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celia
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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by celia » Sun Aug 12, 2018 4:00 am

cashheavy18 wrote:
Sat Aug 11, 2018 9:19 pm
However, they are from a generation/culture where they don’t really want to talk about “what if” situations in the future as it would be regarded as not something appropriate to talk about.
Why do finances have to be a "taboo" subject? Did they ever talk to the kids around the dinner table about buying a new car, going on vacation, getting a new dishwasher, allowances, which jobs pay more than others, paying for college? What happened to those discussions?

One thing you can do to get rid of this "taboo" is to talk about something financial during each visit. Discuss a consumer issue. During open enrollment for medical insurance, ask if they had a choice of plans and how they decided which one to take. Do you need new tires? Ask them whatever you need to know to choose new tires and where to purchase them. Do they comparison shop the prices at the market so they pay the least cost per pound/serving? See, this doesn't have to be scary at all. Try to make the discussions about something you need help deciding and you are asking for their advice. This will also let you know how much they know.
My mom would like to have a better understanding of where they are financially, she has concerns at times that Dad’s investing might be riskier than what she’d like at this stage. She talks to me about this. I in turn talk to my Dad, but he says “everything is fine.”
It sounds like your mom knows more than you think. Ask her why she is thinking something is risky. Try to figure out what she knows and doesn't know without being nosy.

She should really be the one asking your dad about their assets. She should know how to pay the bills if he were to become sick. She should know what the main things she needs to do if/when he dies first.

Her approach could be based on what she's heard from a friend/neighbor who was widowed. Women, in particular, are vulnerable if they don't have the knowledge and experience to make financial decisions. She could be easily scammed or talked into buying something inappropriate for her situation. Does she know what things to do if he dies first? Who should she call and what are the phone numbers? She should ask if she will have to pay taxes and how to figure out how much. Will there be enough income for her to live alone to 100, if need be? Who should she ask for help if she needs it?
What is the best way to have these dicussions with parents who are doing fine now, but want to help them plan for those “what if” scenarios?
Your mom needs to make an effort to find out about the things she needs to know. From your part, you should talk about the financial decisions you need to make and ask for their opinion. The only dollar amount YOU should discuss relates to YOUR situation. It is up to them to divulge THEIR numbers or not.
• Dad follows the market on a daily basis and is very in tune with current economic news, geo-political events, etc.
Talking about the financial news, which is public information once it is out there, is another way to break the ice. My dad cuts articles out of the WSJ for his kids. Many of the articles he gives me are not of interest to me, but I usually find at least one that impacts my current or upcoming decisions.

Compared to the typical retired couple, your parents appear to be ahead of the game. They have a paid-off house, SS, and IRAs. So, they know more than they are letting on. So start talking in generic terms and listen to each other. Be sure your mom is also a part of the conversation, not someone who needs a messenger to find her answers.

jminv
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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by jminv » Sun Aug 12, 2018 5:56 am

cashheavy18 wrote:
Sat Aug 11, 2018 9:19 pm
• Dad continues with a very part-time consulting business, to stay mentally active in his line of work
• The vast majority of their assets are in individual stocks in a traditional IRA
• Dad follows the market on a daily basis and is very in tune with current economic news, geo-political events, etc.

Here’s why the question: Dad handles all of the finances, Mom isn’t involved. They thankfully made a will 5 years back. However, they are from a generation/culture where they don’t really want to talk about “what if” situations in the future as it would be regarded as not something appropriate to talk about.

My mom would like to have a better understanding of where they are financially, she has concerns at times that Dad’s investing might be riskier than what she’d like at this stage. She talks to me about this. I in turn talk to my Dad, but he says “everything is fine.”

At a minimum, my Mom (and my siblings) would like my Dad to document all of their accounts and add one or more of us as an authorized person. Even if they lose all of their assets or run out of money, my siblings can and will take care of them financially. However, if we feel it would be prudent for my Dad to diversy his portfolio at this stage in life.
One of your father's hobbies that he's is pretty passionate about is investing. Why don't you ask him to pass on his knowledge about it? Take an interest in his hobby and what he's invested in and why. That might get him to open up a little bit, good father child time, and you might learn a few things too. It should give you a good idea of where they are and what he's invested in, too. If it's way too risky you could then approach that issue with recent news, yield curve, historical length of this bull market, etc so that he might re-evaluate his risk position. You could start off the conversation a lot of different ways but maybe start by talking about recent economic news and what he thinks about it. What he thinks about a certain stock or sector etc. Just a thought about an approach that might work better than flat out telling him you want to know what he's invested in, where, how much, and that you think he should switch to a conservative, index approach (which would more or less end his hobby). This could eventually also lead him to do some of the things you want in terms of documentation, authorized user, etc.

I disagree with some of the posters here that says since Mom can't get him to do anything and you'll have no luck. I had something similar in my family but was able to make a number of financial changes that my Mom had no luck getting my father to do. I definitely couldn't get him to do everything, but I did get him to do enough that it made a real difference. It also took me a lot of time and was continuing until he passed unexpectedly a decade earlier than your parents. If I hadn't made the effort, my mother would be in a much, much worse place than she is now.

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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by MikeG62 » Sun Aug 12, 2018 7:40 am

Sheepdog wrote:
Sat Aug 11, 2018 11:41 pm

...What if you told your parents about YOU. You wouldn't have to tell them about your finances (how much you make....how much you have saved of things like that)....but you could tell him your plans if you and your wife were to die together. You could tell them...that you have everything financial written down (brokers, bank accounts IRAs, etc.) and where that was located, once again "if something happened to us." "My will, POA, etc. are completed and they can be found at......(lawyer, safe, wherever.....") "I wanted you to know, Mom and Dad, just in case. How about you two? Do you have something like this? You know.....just in case? It would really help us, don't you think?" (You would not be asking about their finances, etc. just where their children could find the information....and where your Mom could find it also.)
I did precisely this with my Dad (now in his mid-80's). Sent him a link to a document called the "family love letter". I believe it was this one:

http://www.cornerstoneplanning.com/docs ... Family.pdf

Told him I had drafted my own version of this (different format, but all the relevant details) for my DW to use should something happen to me. After reading it, he prepared a similar document and gave it to me in a sealed envelope (which resides in my safe). So at least there is that.
Sheepdog wrote:
Sat Aug 11, 2018 11:41 pm

As far as finances, and how your Mom and Dad communicate with each other, that is really up to them, I think. I don't think you want to hear "Frankly, Son, I have that all taken care of. She knows. It really isn't any of your business." Just tell them how you are handling yours...... Maybe, just maybe, he will think more.
WRT to this, my mother has told me on several occasions that she wants to learn how to pay their bills (should something happen to my father who has taken care of those details for >60 years). She has asked him to show her, but she claims he gets quickly frustrated with her trying to do it, takes it back over and that ends that. I have told him to show her. He says she doesn't understand. I tell him to teach her - he doesn't. He told me that is all covered in the documents he gave me (sealed envelope) and I should take this over should he predecease her. I have told him that I will look it over and then teach her how to do it. So why not he teach her instead. Still has not happened. :oops:
Real Knowledge Comes Only From Experience

alrick
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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by alrick » Sun Aug 12, 2018 8:35 am

I like the approach of starting off by talking to your parents about sharing your financial and operation information....."just in case". If you and your siblings were to do this....to whatever level of detail is comfortable....it should send a strong message about the value of planning ahead. Be sure that both mother and father are in this conversation and prompt/encourage your mother to ask questions.

From this point is should be easy to shift some of the conversation to a desire for reciprocity......just in case.

delamer
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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by delamer » Sun Aug 12, 2018 11:32 am

Despite knowing that this is pretty common, it is hard for me to understand how one spouse (usually the husband) who claims to care about a partner (usually the wife) can refuse to share information about their joint finances.

If I was your mother, I’d be pestering him until I was satisfied that I had all the information that I need.

I also find it hard to understand when one spouse (usually the wife) makes no effort to become informed when a partmer (usually the husband) tries to make sure they are up-to-date on finances.

Anyway, I’d advise your mother to become a real pain-in-his-neck until she gets the information that she is entitled to.

cashheavy18
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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by cashheavy18 » Sun Aug 12, 2018 11:49 am

delamer wrote:
Sun Aug 12, 2018 11:32 am
Despite knowing that this is pretty common, it is hard for me to understand how one spouse (usually the husband) who claims to care about a partner (usually the wife) can refuse to share information about their joint finances.

If I was your mother, I’d be pestering him until I was satisfied that I had all the information that I need.

I also find it hard to understand when one spouse (usually the wife) makes no effort to become informed when a partmer (usually the husband) tries to make sure they are up-to-date on finances.

Anyway, I’d advise your mother to become a real pain-in-his-neck until she gets the information that she is entitled to.
Unfortunately easier said than done, when personality dynamics are in play. I do agree in general that it is hard to understand, but as you also mention it seems to be a common challenge. Friends of my own age have the same dynamic with their spouses (usually man handles the finances and the woman isn't involved, I've heard all kinds of reasons: she isn't interested, he won't share, etc) both husband/wives are all highly educated.

cashheavy18
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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by cashheavy18 » Sun Aug 12, 2018 11:55 am

MikeG62 wrote:
Sun Aug 12, 2018 7:40 am
Sheepdog wrote:
Sat Aug 11, 2018 11:41 pm

...What if you told your parents about YOU. You wouldn't have to tell them about your finances (how much you make....how much you have saved of things like that)....but you could tell him your plans if you and your wife were to die together. You could tell them...that you have everything financial written down (brokers, bank accounts IRAs, etc.) and where that was located, once again "if something happened to us." "My will, POA, etc. are completed and they can be found at......(lawyer, safe, wherever.....") "I wanted you to know, Mom and Dad, just in case. How about you two? Do you have something like this? You know.....just in case? It would really help us, don't you think?" (You would not be asking about their finances, etc. just where their children could find the information....and where your Mom could find it also.)
I did precisely this with my Dad (now in his mid-80's). Sent him a link to a document called the "family love letter". I believe it was this one:

http://www.cornerstoneplanning.com/docs ... Family.pdf

Told him I had drafted my own version of this (different format, but all the relevant details) for my DW to use should something happen to me. After reading it, he prepared a similar document and gave it to me in a sealed envelope (which resides in my safe). So at least there is that.

I think this maybe the route to go. He knows I have this type of documents (both of my parents do, because we give it to them when we travel without the kids). He may feel better that it's in a sealed envelope.
Sheepdog wrote:
Sat Aug 11, 2018 11:41 pm

As far as finances, and how your Mom and Dad communicate with each other, that is really up to them, I think. I don't think you want to hear "Frankly, Son, I have that all taken care of. She knows. It really isn't any of your business." Just tell them how you are handling yours...... Maybe, just maybe, he will think more.
WRT to this, my mother has told me on several occasions that she wants to learn how to pay their bills (should something happen to my father who has taken care of those details for >60 years). She has asked him to show her, but she claims he gets quickly frustrated with her trying to do it, takes it back over and that ends that. I have told him to show her. He says she doesn't understand. I tell him to teach her - he doesn't. He told me that is all covered in the documents he gave me (sealed envelope) and I should take this over should he predecease her. I have told him that I will look it over and then teach her how to do it. So why not he teach her instead. Still has not happened. :oops:
The above pretty much sums of my parents dialogue (minus the envelope existing). It's their dynamic and after 55 years of marriage, not sure how much will change.

donall
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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by donall » Sun Aug 12, 2018 12:35 pm

Hard to change family dynamics.
I’ve been in this situation. It took almost 9 years of incremental changes to get a supporting situation. I started the conversation asking what the parent’s investment goals were. It turned out there were no goals other than to get a monthly check. Luckily my parent accepted changes and we were able to develop a great and trusting relationship. Take it slowly!

TravelforFun
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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by TravelforFun » Sun Aug 12, 2018 2:05 pm

If your dad doesn't want to share information with your mom, I'd say we got a big problem here. How do we know he's not broke? I think your mom and the kids need to have a family meeting with your dad ASAP.

TravelforFun

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Sheepdog
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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by Sheepdog » Sun Aug 12, 2018 4:29 pm

cashheavy18 wrote:
Sun Aug 12, 2018 11:55 am


I did precisely this with my Dad (now in his mid-80's). Sent him a link to a document called the "family love letter". I believe it was this one:

http://www.cornerstoneplanning.com/docs ... Family.pdf



I really do like that "family love letter" Thank you for posting it.
That would look good in the WIKI.
It's not what you gather, but what you scatter which tells what kind of life you have lived---Helen Walton

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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by Hockey10 » Sun Aug 12, 2018 6:25 pm

If you do manage to have the discussion, try to convince them to let you read their estate planning documents (will, trust, health care directives, power of attorney, etc...). What they think has been planned out and what is actually planned in writing may be different. Read every word on every document.

I had the discussion with my parents when they were in their 60s. They were raving about the estate planning attorney that they had hired and who had just completed their estate plan.

I politely asked to read the docs. Before I started reading, they said everything will be split evenly between me and my brother. I discovered that the house was left to my brother and then all financial assets were split evenly. When I asked them about this, they had no idea that the assets were not split evenly. They immediately scheduled an appointment with the attorney and had the documents changed to reflect a true 50/50 split.

My Mom died about a year later. In helping my Dad settle the estate, I attended some meetings with Dad and the estate planning attorney. In the first meeting, I asked her to create a 1 page document that explains the estate plan in plain English. I wish she had done this with the initial plan, but instead she provided my parents with hundreds of pages of legal mumbo jumbo.

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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by tibbitts » Sun Aug 12, 2018 6:31 pm

Hockey10 wrote:
Sun Aug 12, 2018 6:25 pm
If you do manage to have the discussion, try to convince them to let you read their estate planning documents (will, trust, health care directives, power of attorney, etc...). What they think has been planned out and what is actually planned in writing may be different. Read every word on every document.

I had the discussion with my parents when they were in their 60s. They were raving about the estate planning attorney that they had hired and who had just completed their estate plan.

I politely asked to read the docs. Before I started reading, they said everything will be split evenly between me and my brother. I discovered that the house was left to my brother and then all financial assets were split evenly. When I asked them about this, they had no idea that the assets were not split evenly. They immediately scheduled an appointment with the attorney and had the documents changed to reflect a true 50/50 split.

My Mom died about a year later. In helping my Dad settle the estate, I attended some meetings with Dad and the estate planning attorney. In the first meeting, I asked her to create a 1 page document that explains the estate plan in plain English. I wish she had done this with the initial plan, but instead she provided my parents with hundreds of pages of legal mumbo jumbo.
I'm not sure splitting real estate is an improvement.

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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by Hockey10 » Mon Aug 13, 2018 7:20 am

tibbitts wrote:
Sun Aug 12, 2018 6:31 pm
Hockey10 wrote:
Sun Aug 12, 2018 6:25 pm
If you do manage to have the discussion, try to convince them to let you read their estate planning documents (will, trust, health care directives, power of attorney, etc...). What they think has been planned out and what is actually planned in writing may be different. Read every word on every document.

I had the discussion with my parents when they were in their 60s. They were raving about the estate planning attorney that they had hired and who had just completed their estate plan.

I politely asked to read the docs. Before I started reading, they said everything will be split evenly between me and my brother. I discovered that the house was left to my brother and then all financial assets were split evenly. When I asked them about this, they had no idea that the assets were not split evenly. They immediately scheduled an appointment with the attorney and had the documents changed to reflect a true 50/50 split.

My Mom died about a year later. In helping my Dad settle the estate, I attended some meetings with Dad and the estate planning attorney. In the first meeting, I asked her to create a 1 page document that explains the estate plan in plain English. I wish she had done this with the initial plan, but instead she provided my parents with hundreds of pages of legal mumbo jumbo.
I'm not sure splitting real estate is an improvement.
The real estate was not split. (And I would agree that splitting real estate among siblings is not a good idea). The amended plan called for my brother to get the house, for me to get financial assets equivalent to the house, then all remaining assets to be split evenly.

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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by indexonlyplease » Mon Aug 13, 2018 7:34 am

Lets see your dad and mom made it to there 70s without the help of others (kids). My parents in there 80 manage all money on there own. Never talked about it. They have a will. Thats all we know. Wife's parents passed away in their 80s. They had a will. Never talked about money. Will split everything 50-50 between 2 kids. No problems.

Not sure why kids think it is such a concern of theirs to be involved in the parents finances. I don't think I would want my kids telling me how to manage my money. It is a issue for you mom and dad to handle. Like they have done for all there lives without the kids.

The most your mom could ask for is a sheet of paper with all investment information. Then she will know were the money is if something happens to him first. My mother in law past away years before her husband. She handled all bill. He had no issue with the money and investments after she was gone.

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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by plannerman » Mon Aug 13, 2018 7:40 am

cashheavy18 wrote:
Sat Aug 11, 2018 9:19 pm
My parents are in their mid-70’s. No current financial concerns:

• house is paid for
• drawing SS
• taking out RMD’s
• not big spenders
• Dad continues with a very part-time consulting business, to stay mentally active in his line of work
• The vast majority of their assets are in individual stocks in a traditional IRA
• In relatively good health
• Given their spending habits their net assets (minus their home) are in good shape due to the stock market
• Dad follows the market on a daily basis and is very in tune with current economic news, geo-political events, etc.

Here’s why the question: Dad handles all of the finances, Mom isn’t involved. They thankfully made a will 5 years back. However, they are from a generation/culture where they don’t really want to talk about “what if” situations in the future as it would be regarded as not something appropriate to talk about.

My mom would like to have a better understanding of where they are financially, she has concerns at times that Dad’s investing might be riskier than what she’d like at this stage. She talks to me about this. I in turn talk to my Dad, but he says “everything is fine.”

What is the best way to have these discussions with parents who are doing fine now, but want to help them plan for those “what if” scenarios?

At a minimum, my Mom (and my siblings) would like my Dad to document all of their accounts and add one or more of us as an authorized person. Even if they lose all of their assets or run out of money, my siblings can and will take care of them financially. However, if we feel it would be prudent for my Dad to diversy his portfolio at this stage in life.

Siblings are all financially independent and we have no need or desire for an inheritance, just for the assets to be relatively safe for any upcoming financial needs my parents may have.

Would appreciate thoughts feedback from those that are retired parents who have had these types of conversations with their children or children who have successfully brought up this topic with their retired parents. How to go about it, especially if there is that view that certain topics are "taboo." Edit to clarify, based on responses so far. "what if/taboo" refers to death, health decline (something my Dad NEVER wants to discuss as it pertains to my parents).

Thanks in advance.
We very closely resemble how you have described your parents. We have told our children two things:
1) We have an estate plan
2) They don't need to worry about having to financially support us in our old age

Anything discussion beyond this I would view as invasive--particularly one about how I've chosen to invest our assets.

plannerman
Last edited by plannerman on Mon Aug 13, 2018 2:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by pennywise » Mon Aug 13, 2018 8:22 am

smectym wrote:
Sun Aug 12, 2018 1:00 am
I agree that clear documentation of where the money is and how surviving spouse can access it if need be should be available to spouse. On the other hand, the kids have no such presumptive right to a roadmap of assets, account numbers, passwords etc.

All these threads and articles one sees popping up now about “How to Have the Difficult Conversation With Mom and Dad” etc. rather leave me cold. Mom and Dad are generally doing fine financially without the kids’ help—in fact, their very success in accumulating financial assets is a key driver in stoking the kids’ solicitous interest.

Smectym
+1000

I completely agree; the OP lays out a portrait of a couple in which all the financial bases are more than adequately covered; there is no hint of incapacity or lack of ability to manage said assets. As others have said, the issue of one parent being upset or frustrated by a lack of knowledge of what the financial manager spouse is doing has NOTHING to do with children, nor is it any child's place to intrude into that area of anyone else's marriage.

The wish to have one's parents organize their information so it is available to offspring when the parent is either dead or incapacitated is valid on the surface. But other than politely and respectfully asking the parent if s/he has done that and if there is anything that the adult child can do to help, there's no further action or conversation that should be considered.

I also feel very strongly that it is extremely presumptuous for young(ish) adult offspring to believe they have any right or expectation to become signatories or even be briefed in detail about their parents' financial life unless the parents ask or it is clear they can't manage on their own.

It's at heart extremely arrogant to assume that you have more knowledge than your parents who have spent many decades managing their money and doing a pretty good job of it by all accounts.
Last edited by pennywise on Mon Aug 13, 2018 1:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by delamer » Mon Aug 13, 2018 10:50 am

indexonlyplease wrote:
Mon Aug 13, 2018 7:34 am
Lets see your dad and mom made it to there 70s without the help of others (kids). My parents in there 80 manage all money on there own. Never talked about it. They have a will. Thats all we know. Wife's parents passed away in their 80s. They had a will. Never talked about money. Will split everything 50-50 between 2 kids. No problems.

Not sure why kids think it is such a concern of theirs to be involved in the parents finances. I don't think I would want my kids telling me how to manage my money. It is a issue for you mom and dad to handle. Like they have done for all there lives without the kids.

The most your mom could ask for is a sheet of paper with all investment information. Then she will know were the money is if something happens to him first. My mother in law past away years before her husband. She handled all bill. He had no issue with the money and investments after she was gone.
So all the OP’s mother is entitled to is a list of accounts from her husband?

She has no right to be involved in investment and other financial decisions decisions and have a complete understanding of their financial situation?

Which century do we live in?

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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by Pigeon » Mon Aug 13, 2018 11:19 am

In some other financial forums that skew much younger than this, I often see the 30 year olds worrying about their ancient parents in their 50s needing their financial guidance, and this makes me laugh.

However, over the last few years, we dealt with dh's parents' financial matters as first FIL and later MIL got Alzheimer's. The thing about Alzheimer's is that the cognitive decline is often covered up by the person suffering for some time before it's so bad that it becomes apparent even to other family members. The spouse, who may be the first person to detect the differences, may help in covering up the true degree of the problem.

So, while part of me thinks MYOB, your father knows what he's doing, another part of me remembers that my FIL was letting things slip and was in denial, while MIL had no real idea of what was going in with their finances.

Nobody likes being reminded of their mortality, but I don't think it's a bad idea to try to sit down with him and your mother and try to explain to him that your mother needs to have a better understanding of their financial picture.

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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by Peter Foley » Mon Aug 13, 2018 12:14 pm

It is widely known that "senior citizens" are a target group for fraudsters. Many seniors suffer some mental decline as they age. This can make them more susceptible to fraud.

That is a good reason for multiple individuals to have knowledge of family finances.

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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by Dottie57 » Mon Aug 13, 2018 12:19 pm

indexonlyplease wrote:
Mon Aug 13, 2018 7:34 am
Lets see your dad and mom made it to there 70s without the help of others (kids). My parents in there 80 manage all money on there own. Never talked about it. They have a will. Thats all we know. Wife's parents passed away in their 80s. They had a will. Never talked about money. Will split everything 50-50 between 2 kids. No problems.

Not sure why kids think it is such a concern of theirs to be involved in the parents finances. I don't think I would want my kids telling me how to manage my money. It is a issue for you mom and dad to handle. Like they have done for all there lives without the kids.

The most your mom could ask for is a sheet of paper with all investment information. Then she will know were the money is if something happens to him first. My mother in law past away years before her husband. She handled all bill. He had no issue with the money and investments after she was gone.
My parents have been forthcoming. So I know all of the details. The reason kids want know is tomake sure mom and dad are ok financially in their older years. I also wanted to know if I needed to plan for them besides myself.

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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by NotWhoYouThink » Mon Aug 13, 2018 2:06 pm

Your mom has a right to know more than she does about the accounts, but you don't have a right to interfere in your parents' (or anyone's) marriage. So not much you can do now.

Your father has a right to invest and spend as he pleases. He should consult with your mother on spending, and at least inform her of investments, but again, you don't have a right to force that cooperation.

His plan could work out spectacularly well, or they could lose most of their savings. If they have SS and a paid-for house that should soften any effects from a crash.

So let him know what you are doing to keep your own house in order. Talk to your siblings, and suggest they do the same. Maybe your father will decide to share more, but he doesn't have to. Enjoy your time with him anyway.

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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by retired recently » Mon Aug 13, 2018 2:27 pm

Timely thread for us. My wife's mom died about 15 years ago, dad has been single since then and is 80. He lives overseas in a country where medical care is not great and there really are no nursing home facilities and for the past year his memory is definitely slipping, along with a general mental decline. Recently he has indicated he has a 59 year old girlfriend that he wants to marry. He has plenty of money to ensure he has a comfortable life and he can afford in-home healthcare as needed, but if the new potential wife has bad intentions, he could have a difficult final years.

It has brought up many difficult issues for my wife and her sister.

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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by NHRATA01 » Mon Aug 13, 2018 2:46 pm

indexonlyplease wrote:
Mon Aug 13, 2018 7:34 am
Lets see your dad and mom made it to there 70s without the help of others (kids). My parents in there 80 manage all money on there own. Never talked about it. They have a will. Thats all we know. Wife's parents passed away in their 80s. They had a will. Never talked about money. Will split everything 50-50 between 2 kids. No problems.

Not sure why kids think it is such a concern of theirs to be involved in the parents finances. I don't think I would want my kids telling me how to manage my money. It is a issue for you mom and dad to handle. Like they have done for all there lives without the kids.
Because cognitive decline is real and does happen (typically without the individual being able to notice it), let alone the risks of an immediate and serious debilitating illness/injury go up with age too. It's not pleasant to think about, but strokes, heart attacks, aggressive cancers do happen out of the blue.

My father showed pretty clear signs of decline in his 60s - smoker and sedentary life don't help keeping the mind healthy as well as fighting colon cancer and then lung cancer near the end so many rounds of chemo. Started with the simple ones like falling for email schemes (such as the ol' post office is going to charge for email), advancing to losing CC's and small dollar scams, to missing payments and finally getting swindled out of ~20K by a "friend" via "investing in her business". He passed just after 70 following a fall at home then 4 months in hospitals and nursing homes, and it was unexpected and fairly rapid. Other than being a beneficiary and interested party on his IRA (ie I directed his investments boglehead-style) I had no documentation nor access to his assets. This was particularly an issue when he was facing the prospect of private paying in a nursing home and I did not have his POA to pay his bills or withdraw from accounts (and I wasn't going to personally be able to swing too many $11k/mo payments in the interim). Being an only child, I had to spend hours to chase this all down as well as handling basically every aspect of running his life including interfacing with Drs and the nursing home - doing so as a married father of 3 with his own busy home life and career. Had he sat with me and gone over where everything was and granted a POA, life would have been a lot easier.

The only upside of this exercise was my mother (and last surviving maternal aunt) quickly got everything organized on their ends and we signed POA forms.

It's always going to be a touchy issue with parents, I get that and at 38 I'm not near being in those shoes yet to fully understand the perspective. But father time is undefeated, and at some point the discussion needs to be had. I'm sure there are some unscrupulous children out there who can't be trusted and need to be left out - and luckily being an only child I don't have siblings to deal with. Regarding "Not sure why kids think it's is such a concern"...well if not the kids, who else when you are no longer here mentally if not physically? Eventually one spouse will be gone and the other at some point will not be able to write the checks to pay the bills, your kids are going to have to do it. Might as well give them one last gift as a parent and helping make it easier on them, when they are going to be dealing with the stressors of end of life care for their parent.

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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by DC3509 » Mon Aug 13, 2018 3:01 pm

NHRATA01 wrote:
Mon Aug 13, 2018 2:46 pm
indexonlyplease wrote:
Mon Aug 13, 2018 7:34 am
Lets see your dad and mom made it to there 70s without the help of others (kids). My parents in there 80 manage all money on there own. Never talked about it. They have a will. Thats all we know. Wife's parents passed away in their 80s. They had a will. Never talked about money. Will split everything 50-50 between 2 kids. No problems.

Not sure why kids think it is such a concern of theirs to be involved in the parents finances. I don't think I would want my kids telling me how to manage my money. It is a issue for you mom and dad to handle. Like they have done for all there lives without the kids.
Because cognitive decline is real and does happen (typically without the individual being able to notice it), let alone the risks of an immediate and serious debilitating illness/injury go up with age too. It's not pleasant to think about, but strokes, heart attacks, aggressive cancers do happen out of the blue.

My father showed pretty clear signs of decline in his 60s - smoker and sedentary life don't help keeping the mind healthy as well as fighting colon cancer and then lung cancer near the end so many rounds of chemo. Started with the simple ones like falling for email schemes (such as the ol' post office is going to charge for email), advancing to losing CC's and small dollar scams, to missing payments and finally getting swindled out of ~20K by a "friend" via "investing in her business". He passed just after 70 following a fall at home then 4 months in hospitals and nursing homes, and it was unexpected and fairly rapid. Other than being a beneficiary and interested party on his IRA (ie I directed his investments boglehead-style) I had no documentation nor access to his assets. This was particularly an issue when he was facing the prospect of private paying in a nursing home and I did not have his POA to pay his bills or withdraw from accounts (and I wasn't going to personally be able to swing too many $11k/mo payments in the interim). Being an only child, I had to spend hours to chase this all down as well as handling basically every aspect of running his life including interfacing with Drs and the nursing home - doing so as a married father of 3 with his own busy home life and career. Had he sat with me and gone over where everything was and granted a POA, life would have been a lot easier.

The only upside of this exercise was my mother (and last surviving maternal aunt) quickly got everything organized on their ends and we signed POA forms.

It's always going to be a touchy issue with parents, I get that and at 38 I'm not near being in those shoes yet to fully understand the perspective. But father time is undefeated, and at some point the discussion needs to be had. I'm sure there are some unscrupulous children out there who can't be trusted and need to be left out - and luckily being an only child I don't have siblings to deal with. Regarding "Not sure why kids think it's is such a concern"...well if not the kids, who else when you are no longer here mentally if not physically? Eventually one spouse will be gone and the other at some point will not be able to write the checks to pay the bills, your kids are going to have to do it. Might as well give them one last gift as a parent and helping make it easier on them, when they are going to be dealing with the stressors of end of life care for their parent.
+ 1000 this.

The parents posting to this thread -- you have to realize that most of the children who post to this thread are not dealing with parents who are financially knowledgeable, let alone spending their afternoons on bogleheads. If I asked either of my parents what a boglehead is, their response would probably be, "Aren't those the toys they give out for free at baseball games that resemble the real players?" Read the recent articles in the WSJ and NYT on the financial situation facing baby boomers -- it is not a pretty situation, most people have not saved enough for retirement, and the fact that their children are concerned about them and trying to do the right thing should be celebrated, not shunned. Children will have to deal with the mess one way or another and it is better to try to direct things now before there is a disaster.

I know I posted this earlier but what would you have done in my situation? My parents were given what most people would view here as a relatively modest amount of money (less than $500K), but far more than either of my parents had ever seen in their lives. My parents did not have IRA, backdoor IRAs, HSAs, or even a basic brokerage account setup. They didn't even know where to start. They didn't directly ask me for help, but certainly threw it out there. Are you supposed to say -- well, you haven't declared bankruptcy yet, so I assume you know the basics, figure it out on your own and good luck? Of course not -- and especially not when I understand this "stuff" 100X better than they do.

If your parents were truly financial wizards, it would be a different story. But I do not get that sense from the OP, and most of the other threads on this subject either.

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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by NHRATA01 » Mon Aug 13, 2018 3:12 pm

Just as an adder, at least have a POA (and preferably medical proxy) in place with one of your children. Even if one is declared a beneficiary pretty much no financial institution will grant any sort of access to accounts without a POA in place while the account owner is living. The legal requirement of a POA will state the person must act in your best interest, not theirs.

My father did not have a POA and by the time it became apparent he was not going to be able to pay his bills by his own accord, the social worker at the hospital at the time would not notarize a POA as she believed he was not of sufficient competence. When he was discharged back to the nursing home they put me in contact with a notary who agreed to sign - and I felt dirty as heck because it was clear the person was accustomed to looking the other way and my father barely knew what he was putting chicken scratch on. But without it I had no way to withdraw from his IRA to pay that $11K NH bill.

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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by RickBoglehead » Mon Aug 13, 2018 4:02 pm

My in-laws (i.e. MIL) resisted everything. She did everything financially, FIL never signed a check in his life and did not know how to (no, I am not kidding). When he was working, he brought home paycheck and handed it to his wife.

After their third broker put them in front loaded funds, they agreed to let me take over their finances. Still resisted POAs, etc. Then she started bouncing checks. I setup buddy system, she shows him check and he agrees it is made out properly and signed, then entered in checkbook. They agreed, then never did it (i.e. they lied).

After I cleaned up a second mess of bounced checks, I took checkbook and they called with bills to be paid. FIL read bill to me (MIL cognitive functions declined). Each bill took 15 my minutes to read. That lasted a very short period, I took over everything. MIL was not happy with it, but no other options existed. One daughter, my wife. Frankly, I didn't care that MIL did not like it, if I have to take on the burden of doing their bill paying, we do it my way.

Then FIL asked me to review finances monthly with him (they were now in separate facilities). No problem. At the end, he asked me to leave it with him. I declined, because I knew he would take it to her, who by now was on anti-anxiety meds and such. After 2 months he didn't want to go over the finances, because it was all a game to give it to her.

Shortly thereafter I had a long conversation with my mother and told her there was no way I was going through that again. Already did her investments (she paid 1% AUM and liked that her adviser tooker her to a nice lunch annually...), moved almost all bills to credit card which I pay from her funds. Beyond using her credit card and paying hair dresser by check, it is all in my camp.

If I had a Bogelhead parent, I would want a sealed letter. Otherwise, if the burden is going to fall to me, I want it before it's a cluster****.

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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by moehoward » Mon Aug 13, 2018 4:13 pm

RickBoglehead wrote:
Mon Aug 13, 2018 4:02 pm
My in-laws (i.e. MIL) resisted everything. She did everything financially, FIL never signed a check in his life and did not know how to (no, I am not kidding). When he was working, he brought home paycheck and handed it to his wife.

After their third broker put them in front loaded funds, they agreed to let me take over their finances. Still resisted POAs, etc. Then she started bouncing checks. I setup buddy system, she shows him check and he agrees it is made out properly and signed, then entered in checkbook. They agreed, then never did it (i.e. they lied).

After I cleaned up a second mess of bounced checks, I took checkbook and they called with bills to be paid. FIL read bill to me (MIL cognitive functions declined). Each bill took 15 my minutes to read. That lasted a very short period, I took over everything. MIL was not happy with it, but no other options existed. One daughter, my wife. Frankly, I didn't care that MIL did not like it, if I have to take on the burden of doing their bill paying, we do it my way.

Then FIL asked me to review finances monthly with him (they were now in separate facilities). No problem. At the end, he asked me to leave it with him. I declined, because I knew he would take it to her, who by now was on anti-anxiety meds and such. After 2 months he didn't want to go over the finances, because it was all a game to give it to her.

Shortly thereafter I had a long conversation with my mother and told her there was no way I was going through that again. Already did her investments, moved almost all bills to credit card which I pay from her funds. Beyond using her credit card and paying hair dresser by check, it is all in my camp.

If I had a Bogelhead parent, I would want a sealed letter. Otherwise, if the burden is going to fall to me, I want it before it's a cluster****.
Did the same thing with my mother. After a year, she told me she was relieved I took things over. I sent her on trips all over the world and in her later years she thanked me for spending the money on her. I said, "Mom, remember I'm on your checking account." It took about 6 months before she laughed about it.

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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by WillRetire » Mon Aug 13, 2018 4:16 pm

OP:

Encourage your mother to take a personal finance course, for fun. By doing that, she will gain knowledge and feel confident about discussing finances with her husband. And perhaps your father will open up to her regarding where everything is.

I've seen firsthand what happens when one spouse handles all of the finances and the other spouse knows nothing. It often doesn't end well. There are mistakes, impulsive actions, and sometimes theft from scams. Two heads are better than one.

Help your mother get educated.

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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by cashheavy18 » Mon Aug 13, 2018 4:35 pm

Original Poster, back again.

Thank you all for taking the time to weigh in. Since I asked for opinions of both sides (parents and kids), it was a good reminder that definitely there are two sides to every situation.

I will reiterate for our specific situation, my siblings and I aren't trying to be "nosy" or intrusive, but I can see from parents posting that is the perception. Each family situation is unique and for ours, it is truly to have my parents best interests at heart. As I mentioned in the OP, my parents are in a good financial shape as well as mentally and physically. We want to plan for the future if there is a situation when that isn't the case. My siblings are willing and able to financially take care of our parents, so that isn't an issue either.

For the parents posting out there, if you have a healthy relationship with your children, please consider having a discussion with your children on how you'd like to handle things in those "what if" scenarios. It would be TONS better if it's coming from the parents themselves!

For the children (like me) out there, whose parents don't really want to talk about it - the suggestion that spoke to me the most is to ask my parents to fill out the document listing all of their pertinent information and keep it in a sealed envelope, where we could find it. I would also ask my parents to review it annually for any changes. We've shared this type of document with our parents anytime we go out of town, so both are very aware and know we've done it, so in case anything happens to us, they have access to the accounts to help with the kids.

Anyway, wish us luck, we will have to find the right words to assure my Dad it's in my Mom's best interest to have the information documented since she isn't involved with the finances.

Thanks to all for who weighed in. It's obviously a very touchy topic.

pennywise
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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by pennywise » Mon Aug 13, 2018 7:47 pm

DC3509 wrote:
Mon Aug 13, 2018 3:01 pm

The parents posting to this thread -- you have to realize that most of the children who post to this thread are not dealing with parents who are financially knowledgeable, let alone spending their afternoons on bogleheads. I

If your parents were truly financial wizards, it would be a different story. But I do not get that sense from the OP, and most of the other threads on this subject either.
The OP wrote that his parents by all accounts have managed their financial lives quite capably and are still doing so. This was not at all an inquiry from an adult child facing dire consequences of either dementia (current nor imminent), mismanagement of personal finances or lack of ability to handle their money.

Speaking as a 60 year old parent, what grates from this perspective is the presumption by an adult offspring that because they have gained some financial literacy via Bogleheads, they are perforce in a position to have some kind of superior viewpoint on how to manage the old folks' money simply because the parents are, well, old.

Nobody will argue that people do not have problems with cognition related to aging--although there are a lot of very sharp 70-80-90 year olds out there doing just fine. My husband and I have done all the trust/estate planning to set up our own financial succession plan--and we brought our adult children with us to the attorney's meeting to hear every detail, after which they each got a scanned and paper copy of all the documents. So I do not question having one's offspring be part of the team related to this aspect of a family's financial life cycle.

What I do object to-strongly-is adult children taking it on themselves to decide that quite functional adults need their wisdom and advice regardless of how these quite functional adults are managing THEIR lives and THEIR money.

RadAudit
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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by RadAudit » Mon Aug 13, 2018 8:13 pm

pennywise wrote:
Mon Aug 13, 2018 7:47 pm

What I do object to-strongly-is adult children taking it on themselves to decide that quite functional adults need their wisdom and advice regardless of how these quite functional adults are managing THEIR lives and THEIR money.
I agree that would be a little difficult to listen to. But, I would almost welcome that conversation because at least I could get a read on whether or not my kids have any idea what to do with money. Right now I have serious doubts that they do.
FI is the best revenge. LBYM. Invest the rest. Stay the course. - PS: The Calvary isn't coming, kids. You are on your own.

DarthSage
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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by DarthSage » Tue Aug 14, 2018 5:57 am

pennywise wrote:
Mon Aug 13, 2018 7:47 pm


What I do object to-strongly-is adult children taking it on themselves to decide that quite functional adults need their wisdom and advice regardless of how these quite functional adults are managing THEIR lives and THEIR money.
But it doesn't have to be all or nothing, or all at once. If you're 60 and healthy--yeah, you're right, you need nobody to look over your finances, thankyouverymuch. But it would still be helpful for your children to know where your accounts are, where your safe deposit box is, and at least where to look for account numbers and passwords. Any one of us could get hit by a bus tomorrow. POA/Health Care Proxy would also be handy. Here's hoping these aren't needed for a few decades, but you never know.

It also seems like the people who are actually taking over investing and paying bills are dealing with parents who are unable to do so for themselves. That can be dicey--I know my MIL, towards the end, was very paranoid that people were "just after her money". Nobody was, but to her, money = security, which was what she was really afraid of losing.

MikeG62
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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by MikeG62 » Tue Aug 14, 2018 6:18 am

DarthSage wrote:
Tue Aug 14, 2018 5:57 am

...it would still be helpful for your children to know where your accounts are, where your safe deposit box is, and at least where to look for account numbers and passwords. Any one of us could get hit by a bus tomorrow. POA/Health Care Proxy would also be handy.
+1.

DW and I are 53 and 56, respectively. We had a sit down with our adult daughters (now 25 and 22) a few years ago and discussed precisely these details. Our daughters know where the important documents are and what our wishes are. We also discussed that pursuant to our will their inheritance would be placed in trust for them (and why) - which they totally understand and agree with. So we are parents who have no reservation sharing this important information with our daughters. I don't get all the hesitation on this thread from parents who feel it's none of their kids business. I hope your kids are able to figure things out when you pass without a tremendous amount of difficulty. I would reiterate my post about completing the "family love letter" even if it remains in a sealed envelope not to be opened until you pass.
Real Knowledge Comes Only From Experience

Nissanzx1
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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by Nissanzx1 » Tue Aug 14, 2018 7:35 am

This can be a touchy subject. I know where my parents asset binder and will are but I don't ask to see them.

When the time comes for more advanced care, I will be asking more questions so I know more detail. But for now, I'm ok without asking questions. Luckily they were savers.

hoops777
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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by hoops777 » Tue Aug 14, 2018 9:18 am

DC3509 wrote:
Sun Aug 12, 2018 1:44 am
smectym wrote:
Sun Aug 12, 2018 1:00 am
I agree that clear documentation of where the money is and how surviving spouse can access it if need be should be available to spouse. On the other hand, the kids have no such presumptive right to a roadmap of assets, account numbers, passwords etc.

All these threads and articles one sees popping up now about “How to Have the Difficult Conversation With Mom and Dad” etc. rather leave me cold. Mom and Dad are generally doing fine financially without the kids’ help—in fact, their very success in accumulating financial assets is a key driver in stoking the kids’ solicitous interest.

Smectym
As the author of one (or several) of those threads, I strongly disagree that the people who have authored such threads are snooping into our parents financial lives which are otherwise "fine." In fact, the reason why we are concerned about our parents finances is because we know that things are not fine, despite the glossy surface from mom and dad sometimes. The people who wrote these threads do not usually have parents who are sitting around on message boards like these. Our parents are more the typical American retiree right now -- retiring with far too few assets, going to end up on Medicaid someday (just like 2/3 of all seniors do), etc. Don't believe me? There were two excellent articles in the popular press over the last few weeks -- one is the WSJ, another in the NYT -- about how grisly things are out there for retirees, especially in lower cost of living areas.

My parents were never financial people, never ran retirement calculators or any of the like prior to retiring, and still do not understand many financial topics. They were loving, caring, well-meaning parents, and I love them very much, but simply put, they do not have this gene. They also generally did not discuss money growing up, such that I assumed things were generally OK. About two years ago, I realized that things were not generally OK and that my parents had a much lower acumen for this stuff than I originally thought. For children in this situation we have one of two choices -- just sit back and watch the train wreck, or try to do something to stop it, or at least change the course, a bit. There is nothing wrong with picking the latter option. And even if you did chose the first option -- the train might still wreck anyway and then you are left picking up the pieces. My DW and I have decided that we would rather play a more active role now and have some say-so in how this turns out rather than just leaving it completely up to luck. I know I have helped them avoid multiple financial mistakes over the past two years. They have appreciated my input and repeatedly tell me that I know way more about this stuff than they do, and they are so happy and appreciative that I have helped them.

For the OP -- his situation doesn't sound as dire as mine or some of the others I have seen, but I think OP has a right to be concerned. What if Dad has invested the whole portfolio in Facebook and Google because those are the two stocks he read about in some financial porn? What if those stocks tank, as Facebook has over the past few weeks? Losing all your money in a Vanguard Index Fund would take a catastrophic event not seen since the Great Depression; losing all your money in a few tech stocks happens every couple of years. What is the Plan B? The Plan B of course is that the children and siblings will take care of mom and dad. So, the children are just supposed to butt out of things now even though dad might be committing financial suicide. Is that really wise?

I know and understand that some of this is a generational thing. But I also think the parents who post to these threads need to appreciate how atypical they are with money (the fact that you post to this Board makes you extremely atypical), and how typical (in a bad way) some parents are.
Nice post.
Related to your post...I have lived in the Bay Area my entire life and just got done driving through Iowa for the first time.I now clearly see the disconnect in our society and a totally different view of the country.Same thing here on the bogleheads where financial matters are understood at a much different level than probably 90 pct of the country.What is so “obvious “ to some is clearly not to the majority.My wife has a college degree and worked in a professional career and is very concerned about money,yet financially illiterate in terms of topics on this forum,even SS.
K.I.S.S........so easy to say so difficult to do.

InMyDreams
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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by InMyDreams » Tue Aug 14, 2018 10:17 am

Some situations create a clear bright line between competent and not-competent: death (duh!), massive stroke, severe brain injury in a car accident and on.

The creeping decline of cognitive function is much more insidious - and can vary even day-by-day, making it even more difficult to identify.

We all want our loved ones to be safe, happy and financially stable. We want it for them, and we want their happiness for ourselves, too - in part because we love them and wish them well, in part because their stability and happiness gives us happiness and well-being, too. We are a web of family and community.

I have been grateful that my father has been aware of his cognitive decline, and that he took steps to protect himself financially. When my mother received a terminal diagnosis, he signed up for Vanguard's PAS (he had actively managed his own portfolio until then, so quite a change). A few years ago he added my brother to view his VG account, and to allow the PAS manager to talk with my brother.

Beyond the Grave recommends sharing the details of wills and trusts with your family.

I've also heard of couples giving each other widow/widower lessons - if I'm not around, you'll need to be able to do (set up the A/C, pay the bills, and so on).

This might be a useful website https://www.gyst.com/

delamer
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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by delamer » Tue Aug 14, 2018 10:57 am

pennywise wrote:
Mon Aug 13, 2018 7:47 pm
DC3509 wrote:
Mon Aug 13, 2018 3:01 pm

The parents posting to this thread -- you have to realize that most of the children who post to this thread are not dealing with parents who are financially knowledgeable, let alone spending their afternoons on bogleheads. I

If your parents were truly financial wizards, it would be a different story. But I do not get that sense from the OP, and most of the other threads on this subject either.
The OP wrote that his parents by all accounts have managed their financial lives quite capably and are still doing so. This was not at all an inquiry from an adult child facing dire consequences of either dementia (current nor imminent), mismanagement of personal finances or lack of ability to handle their money.

Speaking as a 60 year old parent, what grates from this perspective is the presumption by an adult offspring that because they have gained some financial literacy via Bogleheads, they are perforce in a position to have some kind of superior viewpoint on how to manage the old folks' money simply because the parents are, well, old.

Nobody will argue that people do not have problems with cognition related to aging--although there are a lot of very sharp 70-80-90 year olds out there doing just fine. My husband and I have done all the trust/estate planning to set up our own financial succession plan--and we brought our adult children with us to the attorney's meeting to hear every detail, after which they each got a scanned and paper copy of all the documents. So I do not question having one's offspring be part of the team related to this aspect of a family's financial life cycle.

What I do object to-strongly-is adult children taking it on themselves to decide that quite functional adults need their wisdom and advice regardless of how these quite functional adults are managing THEIR lives and THEIR money.
This comment misrepresents the core issue that the OP was concerned about. S/he said:
My mom would like to have a better understanding of where they are financially, she has concerns at times that Dad’s investing might be riskier than what she’d like at this stage. She talks to me about this. I in turn talk to my Dad, but he says “everything is fine.”
It isn’t about taking over for the parents or not letting parents manage THEIR own lives,

At its core, it is about a wife who is being shut out of her financial affairs by her husband.

The wife is rightfully worried and has gone to a child for help. Now I’d argue that the wife needs to be more assertive with her husband and insist that he share all the details that she wants/needs.

But the OP’s mother has asked her child to intervene on her behalf and the OP is trying to figure out how to do that.

Sandi_k
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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by Sandi_k » Tue Aug 14, 2018 12:33 pm

My mom is 81. This past year, I did her taxes, which was helpful in understanding what I will be dealing with when she passes. I also asked her to arrange a meeting with her attorney, so we could update her will (to record an outstanding loan to my sister) and so I could be introduced to the attorney.

As a by-product, I ended up with a To Do list, most notably being assigned a proxy on a couple of her accounts. The POA is in place, for both finances and health - but I am aware that many companies will not accept anything other than their own internal form.

I will be taking a day off work to spend a few hours with her, on a weekday, so we can get those forms updated and filed. My siblings are relieved, as is our mom.

At no time have we discussed her spending, her investment choices, or anything too intrusive. But she is helping to organize the information. The most effective storyline has been: "I don't want to have any issues with (sibling 1 and sibling 2) not knowing what is involved. It would be terrible if there was any disharmony as a result of a lack of preparation and communication." This has resonated with our mom. Maybe it will help with your dad, OP.

reggiesimpson
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Re: How to have “what if” discussion with retired parents?

Post by reggiesimpson » Tue Aug 14, 2018 6:50 pm

I have seen this many times and its unfortunate. Whether your father wont accept the inevitable (his death), fear of losing control or a myriad of other issues. You may want to ask him how much he plans leaving the state when he passes.......just out of curiosity of course.

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