For most people, personal finances is one of the most intimate, private matters of their life. That’s what makes it so difficult when adult children have to ask questions about their parents preparedness for elder care and other financial matters. Here are some suggestions on ways to make this discussion a bit easier.
Find a comfortable way to begin the conversation.
Perhaps a friend or neighbor was just left in financial straits by unexpected circumstances. Using this as an opening to the conversation can make it easier, and less personal. Ask your parents if they are financially prepared for any obstacles and how you can best help in the event something occurs.
Ease your way into the subject.
If you sense that your aging family members need help with their finances and there is time, ease your way into the subject. Ask if you can help to pay their bills. Ask if you can help them price car or home insurance policies and help them with their taxes. This will give you an idea of their financial situation. It will also give you some insight as to the state of their decision making. Are they paying high prices? Have they been taken advantage of? Are they paying their bills?
Help them organize their finances.
Take a three ring binder to the conversation. Ask if you can help them create specific sections for specific types of finances so that they and their designated representative can find information easily.
Identify a designated representative.
Encourage parents to assign an attorney or family member to make financial decisions on their behalf if they become unable to. Do they have a will and have they completed power of attorney, healthcare proxy, and advanced directives documents? These questions can be asked compassionately, underscoring the fact that they can only be cared for appropriately if their wishes are known.
Keep boundaries in mind.
As the conversation is underway, keep boundaries in mind. Be respectful. This isn’t an exercise in steamrolling. This is an exercise in establishing new, commonly shared territory that improves the best interests of everyone involved.
There are other financial details that would be helpful to be informed about, such as obtaining insurance policies, credit reports, and any electronic payment details. Once the aging family members become comfortable with the conversation and less threatened, more information may be forthcoming.