01 May Conversation Starters: Planning with Your Parents for Their Later Years
What does it mean to take care of your family? Sometimes, the best way is through hard and often emotional conversations. As your parents age, they will likely have medical or continuing care needs arise. As difficult as it may be to broach this topic, doing so now can minimize everyone’s stress and financial burdens down the road. We know senior care, medical expenses, and living arrangements are all emotionally charged topics with the potential to create strain in your family dynamics, which is why we’re here to help. Here are a few tips for starting the conversation now while investing in your relationship with your parents and safeguarding their retirement savings.
It’s tempting to put off uncomfortable things, but much like delaying a trip to the dentist, avoiding talking with your parents about the sticky subjects of money and expectations can cause much bigger problems. According to the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing and Care, continuing care retirement facilities average entry fees upwards of $400,000. With around 50% of nursing home fees being paid out-of-pocket by most, that could amount to a severe bite out of retirement savings. Add that to the fact that around 85% of long-term care decisions are made during a medical crisis (PBS News), and it’s easy to see how procrastination can add a significant emotional, relational, and financial strain on everyone involved. It’s never too early to make sure that the bases are covered and everyone is on the same page!
Tone and Timing
Aretha Franklin said it best: respect. You may have very different ideas of what is best for your parents, but it’s important to approach the conversation in a manner that isn’t demeaning, judgmental, or demanding. Ask what they view as their highest priority needs and what they value in quality of life and independence; by giving your parents room to be heard and as much control as possible, you can reassure them that you’re not trying to override their wishes. If you anticipate difficulty getting everyone on the same page, consider meeting in a neutral setting with an unbiased party. Your financial advisor is a great resource, as they can facilitate the conversation and act as a mediator when conflicting needs arise. It can also help to create an agenda for the meeting. Everyone can look at it ahead of time and know what to expect. Start with easier, less nuanced questions, and above all, listen attentively. Ask them about their retirement plans and other financial goals.
Ask About Expectations
Ask any therapist- poor communication is one of the leading causes of strain in relationships, and that doesn’t just apply to romantic partners. Unspoken expectations are a recipe for stress, so discussing them is important. Are your parents planning to live in their own home forever? How many years of retirement income have they planned for? Is there a plan for one or both to live with you at any point? It’s important to remember that there’s no “right” formula. The best plan is the one that works for everyone involved in a way that is financially and relationally healthy.
The Fine Print
Finally, make sure you know where your parents have stored their important financial documents, including wills, titles and deeds, accounts and passwords, and tax records. Wherever they are, they should be in a fireproof safe or another equally protected storage method. Equally as important, you need to know how to locate these documents! During a medical emergency or the loss of your parent, having easy access to organized, important information will make an emotionally difficult time just a bit easier.
Love in Action
Talking to your aging parents about their finances and expectations can be challenging, but it’s an important conversation to have. By approaching the topic with empathy and respect, you can help ensure your parents have the resources and support they need to plan for the future. It doesn’t need to be like pulling teeth, either! If you’re still not sure what to ask or how to ask it, reach out to your financial advisor.