The Talk You Need to Have
Many people have a difficult time talking about personal finances, even with family members. It’s natural to feel uncomfortable revealing information you consider private, and it’s wise to be concerned about the security of financial accounts. However, it can be important to discuss your finances with your adult children.
You might be surprised to discover that your children are more concerned about you than they are about any potential inheritance. One study found that 56% of adult children worried about their parents’ financial security, whereas only 23% of parents were concerned about their own finances. Moreover, adult children underestimated their parents’ financial resources by an average of $300,000.1
There is also a generational disconnect about when to discuss finances. Parents generally prefer to wait until after they retire, whereas children prefer an earlier conversation, before their parents leave the workforce.2 Regardless of when you have a financial conversation, here are some tips to consider.
Plan a time and include all your children. It’s probably not a good idea to bring up the subject over a holiday dinner, but if the whole family is together during the holidays, this might be a good time to talk. Ideally, you should include all your children in the conversation so that there are no misunderstandings among them.
Control the agenda. Before the meeting, decide what you want to accomplish and what information you want to provide. If you prefer not to be specific, you might offer rough estimates or simply assure them that you have sufficient resources for your retirement years. At a minimum, tell your children where to find important documents such as your will, insurance policies, account statements, powers of attorney, titles to real property, and contacts who could help them sort through your finances.
Discuss your wishes for care and end-of-life issues. It’s not pleasant to think about being unable to care for yourself, and even less pleasant to think about dying, but clarity now could help avoid conflict and confusion during a difficult time. Almost half of adult children expect to provide caregiving duties if their parents become ill, but only 6% of parents expect such help.3 Explain your plans for any care you may need. Define your preferences for end-of-life decisions, and provide your children with copies of advance medical directives.
An initial family financial discussion may seem challenging, but once the doors are open, you and your children might feel less anxiety about the future. Be sure to continue the conversation as circumstances change over the years.