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Talking to parents about money makes sense

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At least once a month, someone calls the AgingOptions Radio Show to ask how they can get their parents to tell them what sort of planning they’ve done especially surrounding any financial context. 

Of course no one can force someone else to tell them what they want to keep private.  Perhaps they’ve even been put in their place for asking.  It might have even been you that did the rebuffing.  A survey by the National Endowment for Financial Education found that seven in 10 adults say they have difficulty talking to their families about who will make financial decisions should they lose the ability to do so.

Finances are a particularly private thing.  Politics, religion and money used to all be taboo topics of discussion and while some of that restraint has loosened up a bit it really depends upon the generation involved.  Older Americans not only don’t feel comfortable talking about those topics but they may also feel the need to rationalize why they have more or less money than they think their audience expects them to have.  They may also be worried that a discussion about money is a prelude to determining that they are unable to care for themselves.

We’re all quite comfortable talking about the finances of the country, a company, a team or some other entity, even about the finances of particularly wealthy people like Bill Gates or Warren Buffett.  No one gets embarrassed about talking about finances in a generic, non-personal way.  In an unscientific poll, one writer found that some people didn’t want to talk about money because they were afraid that if their children knew how much to expect from an inheritance that they would lose the motivation to work.  But there was also worry that the children would either take advantage of them or ask them outright for money.

One of the first areas of concern for individuals with cognitive decline is their financial prowess but it doesn’t require a devastating diagnosis of Alzheimer’s to cause financial issues.   A stroke, an accident, even traveling out of state or country may be cause for a brief financial flurry.  If some emergency does pop up, and if the pinch hitter is you, you’ll need to know where your parent’s bank, their passwords for online accounts, and what bills have to be paid etc.  Families need to have a discussion about who’s on deck for financial situations should anything happen to diminish a family member’s ability to care for their own finances.   Once a proxy has been selected, that individual needs to gather information about where financial information is kept, what needs to be taken care in case of emergency and what you’ll need to do to access financial information.  A family member may not have someone available to handle finances, at which point it may be necessary to hire a personal money assistant.

Regardless of whether you have an older family member or you are the older family member, finances are one area of your life you cannot afford to procrastinate about.


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