Even for the most financially prepared families, the topic of money can be uncomfortable— especially between adult children and their parents. When adult children find themselves worrying about their aging parent’s financial status, we don’t always know how to broach this delicate topic. It becomes even more challenging if your parents do not prioritize financial planning or there is concern that they lack sufficient retirement income.
Coming from a background of immigrant parents who were just trying to get by, I understand the disadvantages that can exist when financial education is simply not a family’s priority. As I found my own success and wanted to help my parents, starting the conversation was hard. Whether it’s because of a communication or cultural barrier, or an adult child that becomes more financially successful (the dream!), no parent enjoys being parented by their child.
The “money talk” is an important conversation to have to protect your parents’ future, but it is also important for your own. Whether it is financial distress or misaligned cultural expectations, not being able to discuss a financial plan can have far-reaching consequences. These conversations will take time, patience, and a healthy dose of empathy, but they are well worth it.
Here are a few things to consider when do you:
Approach with Care
Without judgment or pushing too hard, try to get a general sense of what their plans are for their future. For example, you might ask them if they ever worry about unexpected illness or their emergency funds, should one arise. Remember, there is no right answer—you just need to understand how to meet them where they are. Keep the conversation upbeat, actively listen, and answer any questions with intention and understanding.
To establish and maintain trust—which is the key ingredient in these conversations—you should come prepared and organized. You may want to break down big ideas into simple, smaller topics to avoid overwhelming them. If talking about incredibly sensitive subjects like end-of-life planning, come prepared with straightforward estate planning checklists to work through together.
With more trust comes more comfortability. From there, you will be able to do deeper dives into what their expectations are for you. Are they expecting you to help them financially in retirement? And are you prepared to help them? If yes, in what way?
A safe, shame-free space allows anyone to be curious, and the biggest improvement to your parents’ financial status will come when they start to feel empowered to ask questions.
If you find it difficult to start the conversation or hit any roadblocks along the way, ask open-ended questions that allow them to freely express themselves. Sometimes, you should simply summarize what you heard from them, rather than offering a solution, to encourage question-asking.
I wish my parents and I had started talking about finances long ago, as it would have allowed us to evolve and pass on knowledge to each other. It is my hope that younger generations have and use the tools to better engage their own parents, so that their families can form united fronts and ensure that the future is as bright as possible.
This is part one in our two-part series about talking to your parents about their finances. Stay tuned for part two, when we talk to fellow investors and business owners Angela and Andrew Taggart.