10 Ways to Talk to Your Aging Parents About Their Finances

There's a good chance that many adult children will have to get involved with their parents' financial lives as they age.

photo of parent and child talking
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Editor's note: This piece, first published in 2019, is excerpted from Cameron Huddleston's book Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk: How to Have Essential Conversations With Your Parents About Their Finances (opens in new tab). We like to re-feature it from time to time. Cameron also joined Kiplinger's podcast, Your Money's Worth, recently, and you can listen to that discussion here.

There's a good chance that many adult children will have to get involved with their parents' financial lives as they age. Yet, an overwhelming majority of adult children – 73% – have not had detailed conversations with their parents about their finances, according to a survey by GOBankingRates (opens in new tab). One of the primary reasons why survey respondents said they haven't had "the talk" yet with their parents is because they don't know how to have the discussion.

Fortunately, talking to your parents about their finances isn't as difficult as it might seem. That's because there are several ways to start the conversation. Here are 10 tried and true approaches from my book, Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk: How to Have Essential Conversations With Your Parents About Their Finances (opens in new tab). Decide which conversation starter will work best to get your parents to open up and start talking.

If you're on the fence about whether you want to go through with this, here's something very important to consider about why you need to have this conversation sooner rather than later. "You're either going to do it by plan or by crisis," financial psychologist Mary Gresham said. "It is going to happen." Ideally, you want the conversation to happen when your parents are in good health, are mentally alert, and aren't an emotional mess (nor are you) because a crisis has struck.

The good news is that your parents probably won't resist your efforts to get them to share at least some of their financial information with you if you use one of these conversation starters. John Cooper, a financial planner with Greenwood Capital, said he's learned by talking to many retirees that they recognize the importance of sharing financial information with their children. "There are really a lot of people out there who are interested in having these conversations with their children," he said. "They just need to be asked." So what are you waiting for?

Cameron Huddleston
Former Online Editor, Kiplinger.com
Huddleston wrote the daily "Kip Tips" column for Kiplinger.com. She joined Kiplinger in 2001 after graduating from American University with an MA in economic journalism.