How to talk about money with your aging parents

Part of our tough money questions series

It can be tough to bring up money with your parents. You may worry it feels like an invasion of privacy. Or that they’ll feel threatened or be concerned about losing their independence.

One golden rule can guide you: Set the right tone. Let them know you have their best interests in mind, and your goal is to help and support them, not exert power.

Beyond that, here are 4 ways to approach the conversation with aging parents about their finances:

  1. It might be a good idea to get help from your siblings. Think about who has the closest relationship with Mom or Dad. And have that person start the conversation privately. Bring in the others later to talk about the specifics of your parents’ situation.
  2. You could start with a broader topic, like their retirement plans. You could ask, Will you want to downsize? Or, What kind of care would you want if you become ill? It may get them talking more than if you just asked point-blank about their finances. And knowing more about their wishes will give you a better idea of how much money they may need.
  3. Another approach is to ask if there’s something you can take off their plates so they have more time to do what they like to do. You could start with a few things that aren’t money-related—like helping with grocery shopping, or finding a lawn mowing service. Then offer to help with income tax preparation. They may take you up on that! Because who really likes to do their taxes? It will give you access to some information about their financial situation and that opens the door for you to keep the conversation going.
  4. Offer to find out if your parents qualify for additional benefits that can help them pay for prescriptions, health care, or even utilities. They’ll need to tell you their monthly income, how they spend their money, and what benefits they already receive. They may be more willing to share information if they know it could help them financially…especially if you take the lead and help them through the process.

Planning ahead can help make transitions in their lives easier, both financially and emotionally. That's why it's important to find an approach that fits you and your parents and start the conversation.

Next steps:

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