How Do I Discuss Finances With My Older Parents?

A son meeting with his elderly mother to discuss her financial plans.

As parents age, it can be a challenge to watch them experience a physical decline. Mental alertness and cognitive skills tend to suffer over time, as well. How can you discuss finances with older parents? There can be a risk of your parents feeling inadequate, defensive, or confrontational. There are many tips that can help you form an effective strategy for addressing this topic.

Prepare to Discuss Finances With Older Parents

Consider these ideas to help put your parents at ease:

  • Do not discuss during a family meal
  • Try to have a discussion under private conditions away from other listeners
  • Choose a one-on-one style meeting rather than a discussion involving multiple family members
  • Create a question list in advance to help steer the conversation productively

Ask Them to Educate You

Allow your parents to share their financial knowledge by asking what they have learned over the years and what decisions they have made. This helps open a conversation without cutting straight to their own money situation, and it gives you a feel for their comfort level when discussing financial matters.

Discuss Finance in the News

Chances are your parents pay attention to the news in some form. Bring up current events in areas like healthcare or the economy as a way to casually chat about money matters. You may then steer them in the direction of their own finances by asking how certain events might affect them personally or asking for opinions on a specific topic.

Explain the Dangers of Failing to Plan

Naturally, older people generally want to maintain their current lifestyle as long as they can – and perhaps leave behind some financial security for their children and grandkids after they pass away. Yet many resist working with any kind of financial advisor to put together some type of estate or retirement plan. Help them understand that assets could be taxed or taken away after death if they are not prepared.

Let Them Maintain Control When You Discuss Finances With Your Older Parents

Make it clear that you want to honor your parents' wishes both before and after passing away, and that you need to know some details of their preferences to make that happen. Explain how you want to help them stay on the financial path they have developed for themselves – even if they someday lose independence or control over their own lives.

What Items Should I Discuss?

Certain items are critical to include when you discuss finances with older parents. Consider bringing up these subjects:

Placing a Family Home for Sale

Most older folks are emotionally connected to their home and do not wish to leave. Are they in decent health and able to afford it? No problem. Yet memory, cognitive, or other health issues might lead to difficulties maintaining the place or result in a lack of safety. High housing costs could also make comfortable living a challenge.

Explain that a possible move could lower expenses and provide more money for things they enjoy in life. Connecting with people of similar age in a new community could also enrich their daily routine.

Long-term Care

It is helpful to have a plan in place, should the need arise down the road. Simply ask, "If anything were to happen and you found yourself needing care, do you have a strategy to pay for it? Long-term care insurance, or a life insurance plan with a long-term care benefit?"

Legal Documents

It is important to discuss whether or not a power of attorney, will, and advance health care directive have been created. Although it may feel like you are sticking your nose into a possible inheritance and other awkward issues, these documents are critical. Without them, dementia or a sudden stroke could mean:

  • State law could decide who receives their property
  • Court battles may take place over life support decisions
  • Costly legal proceedings may be needed to give you authority over financial decisions

Final Resting Place

Find out your parents' wishes regarding burial, cremation, and related matters. Ask whether they have plans for a funeral home or crematory to be paid directly, life insurance to cover the cost, or if finances have yet to be determined.

Discuss Finances With Your Older Parents

Discussing money matters with seniors may seem daunting. However, with the right attitude and a sensible approach, you and your parents can easily communicate with effective results.


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