How To Talk With Parents Or Grandparents About Their Finances

Not every aging parent or grandparent is as secure in their finances, or willing to discuss them with a child or grandchild. The National Council on Aging estimates that “over 23 million older adults are economically insecure.”

Even if your parents or grandparents are among the 24% who are confident they’ve saved enough for retirement, there are still conversations to be had about online banking, chip cards, fraud protection, apps and everything else it takes to manage money today.

We talked to a few folks about how they’re handling these conversations and asked them for tips to help you approach the parents and grandparents in your life.

Be Ready to Take Over—for a Minute, at Least

Jess found herself getting involved in her mother’s finances a few years ago when her father passed away. After 39 years of marriage her mother, a fundraising event coordinator, was faced with managing the finances for the first time.

“She found herself faced with all this financial paperwork and she wasn’t sure what to do next,” Jess said. “My brother and I were able to take the reins for a while, and when things normalized, she took a lot of that responsibility back.”

Jess and her brother helped their mom get a handle on all of the paperwork, finances, stock investments, etc. that she needed manage her financial security. Then, most importantly, they gave control back to her.

Share the Load

While Jess and her brother have taken a different approach, and it’s worked, they’ve also taken steps to guard against unexpected expenses and illness, and to ensure that they have access to their mother’s finances in an emergency.

You can discuss options with your parents and a trusted legal advisor before deciding what works best for your family.

Update Them on Credit and Cards

Angela is an only child who’s working to educate her parents on how to modernize their approach to money. Both have a firm grip on their financial situation and good credit scores. Still, Angela has found it challenging to bring them into the 21st century.

“They view it as almost an impropriety to discuss something like money with their child. They get by, but are very protective about actual numbers,” she said.

Getting them to switch payments from cash or check to credit—for security and rewards—has been another hurdle. “My parents’ credit score is impeccable, but they still see credit cards as strictly a necessary evil,” Angela said. “Trying to explain how a debit card is different from a credit card can still be a little difficult. Paper checks still rule the day.”

Angela said she’d like them to use credit cards more often so they earn rewards on their purchases, and so they have an added layer of protection from fraudsters.

A big win with her parents has been enrolling them in a service that protects their digital data and credit report. She gets a notification if something fishy happens. “Fake emails are getting much slicker. And my mom has been duped to the point of giving out critical personal information more than once,” she said.

Knowing that her parents are enrolled in this service gives Angela peace of mind. She feels better knowing that she can watch over their digital footprints, a space she’s much more comfortable in than her parents.

Have the Conversation

The thing we heard, over and over, was that these conversations need to be planned. Make sure you know what you’re going to say, how you want to say it and when you’re going to say it. Seek out advice from friends and advisors who’ve had similar conversation. This 7-step process to approaching your parents about money can be invaluable as you move through these difficult but rewarding conversations.

AARP recommends a similar 5-step approach to conversations about money with family. They encourage children and grandchildren to time these discussions right and to make sure they’re asking questions. Listening and asking questions sensitively can also help smooth out what might otherwise be a difficult moment.  

You may end up showing them how to access their accounts online, how to use a chip card or what their fraud protection options are. If they’re working, you may have to show them how to maximize their retirement options and help with estate planning.

No matter where the conversation goes, the first step is sitting down and having it. Once you’ve had the conversation, you can rest easy knowing that the people who spent a lifetime taking care of you are going to approach the future with peace of mind and a solid foundation of financial security.

This article is for educational purposes only, and is not intended to provide medical or legal advice, or to indicate the availability or suitability of any product or service for your unique circumstances.

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