Money is a private topic for many Americans, especially those in the older generations. It’s a topic that can’t always safely be avoided, though. Aging parents sometimes need help with managing their finances, and because it’s such a sensitive topic, they won’t always ask for it until the situation has become dire.
Why Talk Finances?
No matter how carefully people plan for their retirements, things come up and the money they’ve diligently socked away throughout their lives may not cover all of the expenses associated with aging. To make matters even worse, there are many unscrupulous people out there who prey on the elderly, and scams abound.
Eventually, there will come a time when the adult children of aging parents will need to be able to provide more than just gentle guidance when it comes to managing finances and avoiding scams. Having difficult conversations now, before aging parents begin to experience any kind of memory issues or cognitive decline that could leave them vulnerable, is the best way to ensure that they’ll be able to live well throughout their retirement years.
Every Family Is Different
Every family is different. Some discuss finances openly amongst themselves, while others feel that discussing money is impolite. If there are family members who work in the financial industry, that can pave the way for more straightforward and productive conversations, as can sharing some financial burdens among multiple people.
Choosing the right person or people to start important discussions about personal finances can make the difference between a tactful, productive conversation, and coming off as being disrespectful, meddlesome, or worse. Whoever takes on the responsibility of discussing family finances should be able to discuss difficult subjects with tact and poise. In some families, one poorly worded comment can cause parents to clam up and refuse to discuss essential financial matters, so it’s essential to respect family dynamics.
Signs It’s Time to Have the Talk
Many families put off having uncomfortable discussions about finances until it’s too late and an elderly parent has fallen prey to a scam, forgotten to pay bills, or begun to spend money in uncharacteristically foolish ways. Instead of waiting until the worst should happen, try to initiate conversations about finances well before aging parents begin to experience memory issues or cognitive decline. That said, there are also some signs of financial management difficulties that loved ones should look out for at any age. They include:
- Phone calls from debt collectors about late credit card payments.
- Declines in credit score.
- Unusual spending habits such as sudden, large purchases.
- Falling prey to scams.
- Complaints about financial stress.
- Physical decline leading to becoming housebound.
- Memory issues that could lead to missed payments.
If it seems like aging parents are having trouble not just with managing their finances but also with routine activities of daily living (ADLs), it might be time for another difficult conversation, as well. There are assisted living options that offer plenty of independence while simultaneously providing extra safety, security, and daily assistance. Even if it’s not time to start looking into senior living options yet, it’s smart to keep that contingency in mind when discussing financial matters.
Effective Conversation Starters
Once it becomes clear that open conversations about finances and money management are necessary, take some time to think about tactful ways to bring up the subject. The right approach will vary by family and by financial situation. Try:
Using the News
Many elderly Americans tune in to news channels more often, which can expose them to updates about the economy or stories related to finances. If possible, try asking parents’ opinions about these stories and use them as a jumping-off point to learn about personal finances.
Inviting Them to Educate Others
Seniors have a lot of wisdom to share, and most are happy to do so. Try asking aging parents to pass their financial wisdom on to younger generations by sharing what they’ve learned. This approach can open up avenues for additional conversations.
Reinforcing the Importance of Planning
Aging parents generally want to both maintain a high quality of living and leave a legacy for their children, which generally requires the help of a financial planner and/or an elder law attorney. Reinforce the importance of taking these steps. Some people are more comfortable discussing finances in a more structured setting.
Know Where to Go
Financial management isn’t just about whether retirees can afford to go on vacations, nor is it exclusively a matter of estate planning. The adult children of aging parents want to know that they’ll be safe and happy, which sometimes requires moving to a memory care community. If that day comes, Vista at Simi Valley is here for aging Californians and their families. We offer a range of living options created with our residents’ needs in mind. Call (805) 351-8802 to schedule a tour today.