Posted by Positive Aging SourceBook on 01/10/2020

Conversations About Money and Cost of Services

Conversations About Money and Cost of Services

Tips for planning for the future

Talking about money is often the third rail of family relationships. Touching on the subject can be extremely dangerous. 

For too many families, fear and mistrust leads to silence—and that silence can be far more risky than the dreaded money conversation. Families who do not discuss an older relative’s financial situation and lifestyle preferences may be left with fewer choices when a crisis strikes. 

By using some simple approaches, adult children or other loved ones can make these conversations easier and more productive.

Tip #1 – Schedule the conversation. Don’t initiate an impromptu conversation about finances. Schedule the conversation and make sure that all the key players are in the room and ready to address the issues. 

If you need to, use technology to allow participants to be virtually present. Make sure the timing is good for your parent or other loved one and that they know they will be asked to discuss their financial situation and their vision for the future. 

For the initial meeting, simply focus on opening a dialogue and emphasizing that all parties want to make sure that the older adult’s wishes are clear.

Tip #2 – Focus on wants/needs initially. For many families, money has been a taboo topic for decades. Instead of asking about retirement savings, accounts and liabilities at the outset, focus first on what your parent or loved one envisions for the future. 

Ask about how they plan to spend their later years. Ask if they have thought about the “what ifs.” What if they are injured? What if one or both of them develops a long-term illness? What if they need additional care? Emphasize that you are asking these questions because you love them and want to make sure you can honor their wishes as they age. 

Tip #3 – Use real world examples. Everyone knows someone whose parent died with no will, leaving behind chaos and family drama. Likewise, most adult children know someone who is making difficult care decisions for a parent who didn’t plan ahead. 

Tell your parents these stories. Point out that you love them too much to avoid this difficult conversation. Use whatever tools you can to get them to open up and start talking.

Tip #4 – Plan to continue talking. After the initial meeting, plan a follow up that will delve more specifically into finances and future options. Do some research based on what you have learned about your loved one’s wishes. If they want to remain in their long-time home, offer them some information about what home care may cost and what repairs or modifications the home may need. If they are thinking of moving to a retirement community, help them start the research process. 

As far as financial planning, look into local planners who can help or schedule a meeting with an existing financial planner. Ask if you can be present, so you are more aware of the realities of their situation. 

This process may take several meetings, but be patient and remain focused on the end goal—avoiding a family crisis and caring for your loved ones. 

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