Role Reversal: When Children Should Talk to Parents About Money

As Baby Boomers grow older — and presumably wiser about economic matters — more are finding themselves in a position of caretaker for elderly parents. Raising the topic of money with parents can be difficult. But with the right choice of words, timing, and tone, you can open the door to a meaningful conversation.

Select a Representative. An initial conversation about finances should be done one-on-one. Involving too many people can be overwhelming and appear threatening. If you have siblings, select one — perhaps the oldest, most financially knowledgeable, or one with whom your parent(s) may feel most comfortable — to lead the way. Remember, this is about your parent’s money, not about yours or your children’s.

Be Sensitive. To some extent, our financial lives influence how we view ourselves as independent human beings. For many, old age is a time of coping with a series of physical and emotional losses: hearing, eyesight, mobility, memory, as well as friendships. With any conversation about money, be sensitive to the fears and concerns your parents may harbor about their possible loss of control or independence.

Break the Ice Skillfully. A subtle opening could involve an anecdotal story about a person you know in common, a news article found in the daily paper, or even about yourself.

•        I need help with my will. Who did you use?

•        How’s Aunt Mary doing since Uncle Joe passed away?

•        What was it like for your parents during the Great Depression?

Start Slowly. Don’t commence a dialogue during a crisis situation or try to resolve all details in one meeting. Raise questions that your parents can consider for a follow-up conversation. You could try something like: “I’ll stop by for coffee next week, and we can continue our talk. Maybe you’ll have those papers by then?”


5 Responses to “ Role Reversal: When Children Should Talk to Parents About Money ”

  1. May 8, 2013

    I’m living this right now Ivie. Thanks for some really good tips. Wish I had read this post three months ago! I can tell you of some of the mistakes I and my sisters have made.

  2. May 8, 2013

    Ivie, thanks for a timely and informative article on something we’ll all face.

  3. Ruth Smith
    May 8, 2013

    Ivie, this is an excellent article. As someone who has lost both parents and walked through this already, it is so critical to have these conversations. When my Mom passed away, I had already been acting as Power of Attorney and her wishes were well known and discussed among all siblings so it was a very smooth process. We all knew we were honoring her wishes because we had these discussions early and often. Sadly, my Dad passed suddenly and it was much more difficult to put his financial picture together. I highly encourage everyone to try and engage parents early following the suggestions you outline. Great article!

  4. Dan Aronoff
    May 8, 2013

    Ivie, this is excellent food for thought, particularly as my parents are getting to that point in time when I am handling more of their decision making. Thanks for posting.

  5. May 13, 2013

    Ivie, great post. As a member of the sandwich generation, I get to spend time on both ends of this topic and your advice was great. Thanks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.