Here at AgingOptions, one of the hallmarks of our LifePlanning process involves clear, complete family communication. Over the years we have dealt with many difficult situations in which Mom and Dad never sat down with their adult kids to go over their retirement plan and explain their wishes and preferences as they age. This lack of openness can lead to tragic consequences – witness some of the recent high-profile cases in the news involving celebrities like Casey Kasem and broadcasting tycoon Sumner Redstone. (Click here for an article from our Blog about Casey Kasem’s sad family meltdown.)
So we were particularly interested to run across this recent article on the website Next Avenue entitled “What Millennials Wish Their Boomer Parents Would Tell Them.” Since we have always been strong advocates for good family communication, this article is music to our ears. We hope you’ll read it and take it to heart.
The article quotes a study from Fidelity Investments, conducted every two years, which asks questions about personal finance, estate planning and caregiving. (The Next Avenue article contains a link to the study.) Based on the findings in that research piece, the author of the Next Avenue article, Richard Eisenberg, has this advice for Baby Boomer parents: “Your Millennial kids are willing to offer assistance, when needed, as you age,” he writes, “but you need to do a better job now telling them what you may need them to do someday.”
It’s true that none of us wants to be a burden to our loved ones as we age. In our professional practice and on our radio shows we often advise clients and callers on ways to avoid becoming an encumbrance in the lives of our family. But that doesn’t mean we can’t ask for help as we age – in fact, the Fidelity study suggests our kids actually want us to.
A few findings from the survey stood out to us. For example, 93% of parents surveyed said they considered it unacceptable to ever become financially dependent on their children. However, when asked a similar question, only 30% of the adult children felt the same. The kids seem far more accepting of helping their parents financially than the parents are of accepting that help.
A few other statistics pointed out the “communications disconnect” we alluded to above. More than 9 out of 10 adults said one of their kids would serve as executor of their estate – but when Fidelity surveyed the adult kids, fully one in four of those identified as executor had no idea they would be filling that role one day. Similarly, about 72% of adults identified one of their kids as being responsible for helping with future long-term caregiver responsibilities, but a full 40% of those kids didn’t know Mom or Dad was expecting that kind of help from them.
There’s much more. This one caught our attention: 69 percent of parents say they have had detailed conversations with their adult children about wills and estates, but more than half of those kids say they haven’t! Perception, it seems, doesn’t always equal reality.
We also strongly concur with the recommendation from the article that your adult kids need to know where your financial records are and who your financial advisers are. Make sure this information is readily available. Next Avenue reports, “The survey found about 30 percent of families disagreed on whether the children knew where to find important family documents such as wills, power of attorney…and health care proxies.” Yet if you become one of the millions of Americans suffering with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, access to that information will be critically important.
As we said, we encourage you to read the article because it will stimulate your thinking about how to talk to your kids about retirement and end of life issues. Feel free to call us here at AgingOptions for some further ideas. We would welcome the opportunity to host your family here in our office for a “family retirement conference,” something we have done many times. Having these talks in a neutral, professional setting can defuse tension and help open lines of communication. We can also help you prepare a full inventory of information that you can keep in a central location for your adult kids in case it’s needed.
Family communication is just one aspect of a comprehensive retirement plan. You’ll also want to plan for your future medical needs, your housing choices and your financial preparedness. Your legal affairs will also need to be in order. Is there one comprehensive approach to retirement planning that deals with all these facets? Fortunately the answer is yes! We call it LifePlanning. To learn more, and to start developing your own LifePlan, why not register today to attend a free information-packed LifePlanning Seminar coming soon to a neighborhood near you? Click on the Upcoming Events tab for details and registration. We’ll see you there!
(originally reported at www.nextavenue.org)