Talking with your parents about money
Posted By Maryann Porosky On JUNE 20,2017
Every family has its own attitudes about money. As does each generation. The current generation of elders, for instance, was raised during the Depression and WWII. Saving was important. And leaving their children an inheritance is a point of honor.
Money is symbolic
For some, money is a mark of success. For others, money represents love. And people are often rather private about their financial details. (Many an accountant will joke that people share more readily about their sex lives than their financial lives.)
Money = independence
Money can give a person the ability to be more in charge of his or her life. At the very least, the ability to handle one's own finances—for better or worse—is a mark of adulthood and maturity that your loved one achieved decades ago. He or she is not likely to give up that agency readily. And rightfully so. Even though very few people are balancing their checkbooks the day before they die, we don't generally like to think that we will probably "retire" from managing our finances, much as we will likely "retire" from driving.
A gradual process
Ideally you will have many discussions with your parent about money long before the need to step in. And even "stepping in" will be a gradual process. At Caring Choices,we have seen well-meaning daughters and sons, alarmed about poor decisions, jump in and start asking their parents for passwords and account numbers. It does not usually go well.
In the June issue of our newsletter for family caregivers, we have an article called Talking With Your Parent about Money. It has very practical suggestions for opening up the discussion in a way that will not feel threatening. You have a greater likelihood of a smooth transition if you start the discussion early and allow it to evolve over time. Then, if a problem does arise, you have already broken the ice.
Signs of a problem
Difficulty counting change or balancing a checkbook
Frequent late payment or shut-off notices
Unusual or repetitive purchases
Accusations that others are stealing from them
Investing in sweepstakes or other “get rich quick” schemes
New and excessive worry about whether there's enough money (may be a sign of someone taking advantage)
Don't wait for a problem to arise
This is one of those conversations that is delicate. If at all possible, you want to build trust over time. If you suspect memory problems are developing, or if your loved one has been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, then you definitely need to start the money conversation sooner rather than later.
Help discussing money?
As the north New Jersey experts in aging well, we have helped many families bridge this difficult discussion. We can help diffuse the emotions around money and preserve your loved one's dignity and independence while also making sure there's a safety net in place. If money is a sensitive subject in your family, give us a call at 973-627-4087.