Aging Parents

Talking to Your Parents About Their Finances

Talking with your aging parents about money isn’t always comfortable or easy. But sitting down with them to discuss their finances can help prepare your family emotionally and keep you organized for the future.

“When people aren’t prepared to deal with their parents’ financial issues, and their parents lose capacity to handle their money, it can create a tremendous burden on them,” says Carolyn Rosenblatt, author of The Boomer’s Guide to Aging Parents.

However, it’s not always clear to know how to broach the topic or what information to ask for. Here are some tips to help ease the process.

Consider the timing

Rosenblatt suggests bringing up the topic when your parents reach their 70s, but notes that it can make sense to do it sooner. “Age is a good factor to pay attention to, but so are events like retirement, because they provide a natural entree into the topic,” she says.

There’s no set formula for how to bring up the issue with your parents, but it’s important to ask for their cooperation right away. “Make a request and not a demand,” says Rosenblatt, and find a time that’s good for them. For example, many older people get tired early in the evening, so you may consider having the conversation in the morning.

Determine the agenda

Once your parents have agreed to talk about their finances, here are some of the topics you might want to cover: 

  • Assets and liabilities. Ask your parents to explain their assets, including bank and brokerage accounts, pensions and real estate holdings. Also get information about their liabilities, such as a mortgage, credit card debt or home equity lines of credit.
  • Estate plans. Determine whether your parents have a will, when it was last updated and what it contains, including who has financial and medical powers of attorney.
  • Health care. Ask if your parents have considered how they will pay for extended medical or nursing care should they need it. For example, do they have a long-term care insurance policy? If not, discuss whether a policy is appropriate for their situation.
  • Location of important papers. Find out where your parents keep important financial documents. Ideally, they should be well-organized and easy to access. If your parents use any online banking services, be sure that usernames and passwords are available, too.

Revisit the conversation

Talking with your parents about money should not be a one-time event. As your parents’ situation changes over time, discuss how the changes affect their finances. Also keep the list of accounts, usernames and passwords up-to-date.

If you have any questions about your parents’ financial plan, consult a SunTrust financial advisor, who can help your family sort out the situation together.

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