Talking to your parents about money: Pitfalls to avoid

Published November 25, 2020
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  A retirement-aged man jogs with his adult son on a pier as they discuss their finances.

It's a discussion most of us don't want to have but is often inevitable: talking to your parents about financial and aging concerns. These conversations are critical to helping ensure your parents' wishes are understood and followed – as well as helping prevent surprises and more difficult conversations in the future. Here are some pitfalls to avoid as you approach the discussion with your parents.

Avoiding the topic entirely. Though it may be uncomfortable, having the discussion with your parents now could help prevent stress and family friction down the road.

Starting the conversation without advance notice. Don't bring up the topic unexpectedly, especially during a family get-together or the holidays. Ask your parents when they might be open to a discussion and explain that you simply want to ensure they're cared for and their affairs are handled according to their wishes.

Expecting to have just one conversation. Be willing to have multiple shorter conversations rather than trying to solve everything at once. People's wishes and priorities change over time, so you may also want to check back at least every few years to see if what you originally discussed still holds true.

Focusing only on the most sensitive topics. Money is a sensitive topic. Starting with others, such as the following, may be a better option:

  • Aging and independence: How do they plan on meeting long-term care needs?
  • Health care: Do they have a living will and health care power of attorney? Have they had conversations about their wishes with the person(s) named?
  • Financial wishes: Do they have a financial power of attorney? Have they outlined their wishes with the person(s) named? When was their will last updated? Do they have beneficiaries designated on all their accounts?
  • Funeral and last wishes: Does their will include instructions for their funeral and last wishes? Are they willing to share with you who is responsible for those decisions and what their wishes are?

Going it alone. If your parents are reluctant to entertain any conversation about these topics with you, your Edward Jones financial advisor may be able to act as an unbiased facilitator that can make the conversation easier.