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Breaking The Silence: Having 'The (Money) Talk' With Your Parents

Breaking The Silence: Having 'The Money Talk' With Your Parents

For whatever reason, there is likely to come a time where you will have to breach an extremely personal — and therefore often equally uncomfortable — conversation with your parents. Akin to "the talk" parents give their children, "the money talk" children eventually have with their parents carries assumptions, expectations and frequently an overwhelming sense of awkwardness. However, just as important as the former is, the latter should be handled with due respect, preparation and openness.

From talking about post-retirement budgeting to medical expenses, end-of-life care to estate planning, talking to those who raised you, those who led by example as we grew up, and ensuring that they have a plan for after their regular income stops, that they have their wishes written out, that they can afford a comfortable life on their own — it can all seem crushing.

Particularly if your relationship is burdened or financial concerns have been an issue in the past, talking about concrete plans for when the people who cared for you when you were too young to care for yourself about what will happen if and when the roles are reversed needs to be faced head-on.


It's More Than Likely Not Going To Be Easy

In our society, any money talks are shrouded with taboo. We don't ask others how much they make. We don't share our debts or flaunt our bottom lines. We don't outright mention how we make ends meet. Money is among the unspoken matters, left hidden behind closed doors and, at most alluded to. Like intimate relations and bathroom business, money matters are less acceptable dinner table fodder than religion and politics.

These assumptions can make having the talk all that more intimidating. Couple that with the relationship balances being jostled, and it can seem much easier to leave the talks hidden away, unmentioned, but ever-looming.

While there are plenty of advice columns with tips, tricks and hacks, the underlying reality is that talking money may need a unique approach and one piece of advice may not work universally.

That being said, there are some basic rules that can help you and your parents come to the discussion openly and leave the conversation with a sounder sense of accomplishment.

No Gimmicks, Just Respect

  • Set The Tone: Come to the conversation from a place of mutual respect.
  • Expectations: Understand what it is you want to accomplish by talking to your parents about their financial situations.
  • Get Organized: Plan out what subjects you feel need to be addressed. Debt? Cost of living into retirement? End-of-life planning? Wills, trusts, estates? Medical care/expenses? Final wishes/expenses?
  • Keep The Conversation Two-Way: Make sure to not lecture your parents. Instead, ask — and be open to hearing — what they expect from you as they age.
  • It's Not A "One And Done" Thing: Keep the lines of communication open, even after the talk. Approach the big conversation as simply the starting point to an ongoing conversation. Don't expect everything you cover in one sitting to be shut and untouched until it is needed.
  • Don't Beat Around The Bush: Alluding to the discussion without actually talking in depth is rarely sufficient. Don't tiptoe around the awkward parts of the discussion. It's difficult to get outright answers when you don't ask outright questions.
  • Be Respectful: It doesn't matter if your parents are financial moguls or financial flops. They are still your parents. Come to them from a place of respect and care. Even if you know you have more money sense than they do and feel that you know exactly what they need to make the last quarter of their life a "success," remember it's not your life. It's theirs. Ultimately, their financial situation is theirs alone; you discussing your concerns must come from a place of wanting what's best for them and knowing they will be provided for until their ultimate death.
  • Posted-In: aging parents Budgeting children end-of-life care final wishesEducation Personal Finance General


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