How to Talk About Money With Your Parents
As I wrote in my Kip Tip November 29, the holidays are a good time to assess how your aging parents are handling their finances. If you notice while you're visiting them that they're having problems with money tasks, you need to be prepared to have a conversation with them.
Don't disrupt the joy of the holiday season, though, by putting mom and dad on the defensive with your concerns. Use your time with them to gather facts then have a talk at a later date. Here are some tips on starting the conversation when the time comes:
Use "I" statements, not "you," according to Caring.com, a Web site that provides information and support for caregivers. Rather than talk about your parents' situation, discuss your own. For example, you could say: "I recently met with a lawyer to plan for how my finances will be handled if I'm ever unable to do so myself." Then ask what protections they have in place.
Use a story, says Linda Fodrini-Johnson, president of the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers. Tell your parents that you've heard about scams targeting seniors and that you want to help protect them by going through their mail and monitoring their accounts for unusual activity. Help them get copies of their credit reports at www.annualcreditreport.com to make sure they aren’t victims of identity theft.
Offer to lighten their load, says Kelly Campbell, a financial planner and president of Campbell Wealth Management, in Fairfax, Va. Suggest to your parents that you can take over one of their financial responsibilities so they have more time to do what they enjoy. Just be sure not to take away all their financial responsibilities at once.
Offer to help them develop a spending plan (don’t call it a budget), says Carlo Panaccione, a financial planner and president of the Navigation Group, in Redwood Shores, Cal. This will give you a chance to see how much money they have coming in and how they’re spending it.
Bring in a third party. If your parents resist your attempts to help, ask a third party -- a doctor, accountant, financial planner or geriatric manager -- to suggest to your parents that they let you lend a hand. They might be more receptive when the advice comes from a trusted professional.
You can get more information about helping your parents manage their money when they no longer can in a story I've written for the February 2011 issue of Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine. The issue will be online and on newsstands January 4, 2011.