“Old age comes on suddenly, and not gradually as is thought.” – Emily Dickinson

The cost of money-silence is high. According to an article on pbs.org, half of all nursing home expenses are ‘paid-out-of-pocket by families.’ Some research has shown that adult children are paying an average of R150k per year for their parents’ care.

Not wanting to seem greedy or presumptuous, many of us avoid important conversations where we need to talk to mom and dad about their finances. Sometimes our parents will also feel uncomfortable because old age really does come suddenly, and few are ready to accept the changes (and limitations) that come with it.

No one wants to talk about death, dying or the financial realities that come with aging.

That’s why we need to try hard to get it right.

Here are some ideas from the pbs.org article.

1: Identify and process your feelings before inviting your parent to talk

Talking to parents about their estate plans, financial situation, and healthcare wishes is emotional business. Before you invite them to discuss these matters, take time to process your own feelings. You may be annoyed, angry, frustrated, sad, or scared about their situation. Whatever your emotional state, know that it is normal and healthy to have a reaction to your parents aging. By processing these feelings up front, you are more likely to be calm during the actual dialogue.

2: Extend a loving invitation

Lead with loving intentions and let your parents know that you want to discuss their financial life because you care. Begin by saying something like, “I know this might be difficult for you to talk about, but I care enough about you to want to make sure you’re taken care of as you age. Can we find a time to discuss what plans you have made and how I might be able to help you in making sure everything is taken care of?” Remember you have been thinking about this conversation for a while, but this may be the first time your parent has considered this discussion. They may need a little time to process your request.

3: Ask during a quiet time

Finding a quiet time to ask your parents to engage in a financial dialogue with you is essential. Be certain to avoid busy holiday times or events where you are likely to be distracted. While you may want to talk today about money, remember your parent may need some time to adjust to the idea of breaking their money silence with you. Depending on your personality, waiting for a quiet time to invite them to engage in a money talk may be challenging. In this situation, patience does pay off.

Finding a quiet time to ask your parents to engage in a financial dialogue with you is essential.

4: Be specific about your concerns

When sharing your concerns with a parent, be specific. If you are worried that your mother has been the victim of a telephone scam, let her know that. Express your concern and ask permission to help. For example, say, “I am worried that you may have been taken advantage of financially. I would like to help you not get hurt like this again in the future. What do you think?” If you express loving concern and are specific about the cause of your worry, your parent is more likely to understand your actions and comply with your request.

5: Progress, not perfection

Talking about money with an aging parent is not a one-time event. It is a journey that requires time, energy, and a healthy dose of patience. Breaking money silence may be a new skill and with any new skill it takes time and practice. The goal is not to be perfect when discussing these emotional laden topics with your parents. It is to make progress one conversation at a time.

Creating and living in your wealthspace is important to us, if you need any help with tough conversations – let us know!