How to Talk About Finances with a Parent

Sunrise Senior Living  |  April 14, 2021
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The idea of talking with an aging parent about their finances can create stress and anxiety for adult children. You don’t want a senior loved one to think you are questioning their money-management abilities or worrying about their health. It’s an unfortunate reality, however, that emergencies happen more frequently with age.

If you aren’t able to pay a parent’s bills when they become ill, it can create some real problems. That’s why it’s best to tackle this conversation when an aging parent is still independent. Don’t wait for a crisis to occur.

Be Honest

The easiest way to get started is to be honest. Kindness and empathy are important. Explain that you want to be prepared to help if it’s ever needed. Here are a few of the issues you’ll need to discuss:

  • Do they have a will? If so, where is it kept and who is the attorney that drafted it?
  • Have they designated someone as their financial power of attorney or their power of attorney for healthcare decisions?
  • What financial institutions do they use? Are their accounts set up online? Do they have log in and password information stored in a place you can access in the event of an emergency?
  • What income do they have each month from pensions, investments, and social security?
  • Are bills paid automatically online or are some paid by check? Where do they keep their checkbook?
  • Who does their income taxes each year? Do they have an accountant? What about a financial planner?

Remember, your goal should be to gain the knowledge necessary to keep your parent’s home running smoothly if they suffer a short-term or long-term medical event.

Discussing financial issues and monitoring a senior’s financial decisions can be challenging. We’ve compiled a few suggestions you might find useful.

Money and Aging Parents

1. Talk with their accountant or financial planner

If asking financial questions makes you or your parent uncomfortable, ask if you can talk to their accountant, attorney, or financial planner. Be sure your parent gives the professional permission to review their documents and accounts with you. Make a list of the questions you have and bring them to the meeting.

2. Share your concerns about scams and identity theft

While identify theft and financial scams are on the rise, not all older adults are familiar with these types of crimes. Explain to your parent that you have been reading about financial scams targeting seniors and you want to protect them. By being more knowledgeable about their finances, you can be an extra set of eyes looking for potential problems.

3. Register for the Do Not Call Registry

Telemarketer scams can be quite sophisticated. Since many seniors still have a landline, it is easier for fraudsters to access their phone number and persuade them to sign up for something unnecessary. Or to convince them that a government agency needs “more information.” One way to lower the risk of phone scams, is to register your parent for the government’s Do Not Call Registry. While there’s no guarantee of keeping scammers away, it does help. You can find the website to register here.

4. Have more than one conversation

One last suggestion is to avoid overwhelming your parent with too many questions and requests at one time. It may be necessary to have a series of conversations to gain their cooperation and to get the answers you need. This will help you feel confident about managing a parent’s finances in an emergency.

Is It Time for Assisted Living?

Another tough conversation families might need to have is whether it is time to make a move. If a parent is isolated and lonely or their home isn’t safe for a senior, an assisted living community might be a good fit. What Type of Care do You Need? is an online questionnaire the two of you can complete together in just a few minutes.