Five Tips For Talking Money With Your Aging Parents #sandgen

june 26, 2012 007

Is tax talk taboo in your family? Is your Mom mum when it comes to sharing information about money?

Some families have a difficult time sharing important details about finances and wills. We are often told from a young age that talking about what people make or asking questions about money is impolite. So no big shock that some families guard their estate secrets closer than the royal jewels. But waiting for an emergency or a health crisis to hit is not the way to manage an estate or carry out a loved ones retirement or health care wishes. According to a financial service representative in London, Ontario, there are no easy conversations about wills, estates or money, but it helps to start early. Estate planning starts the minute you leave home, she advised. Life insurance and wills should be in place as soon as you have a job.

This past summer when my mother first became ill and was admitted in the middle of the night to hospital we were stressed out by the circumstances of a sudden family crisis. Add to that the burden of travel to a different city and arranging child care for my own kids and the stress was palpable. But, thankfully we had already done all the planning legally and financially. We had power of attorney for health and for finances and we had been to the lawyer and had copies of our mother’s will stating her wishes. We also were fairly clear on the whereabouts of all the important financial papers in her home. Our discussions around money and wills have always been open. Had we not taken time to discuss all of this openly and visit the lawyer and the banks to clarify all of her wishes, our stress would have been compounded exponentially by the fact that we suddenly had an incapacitated relative. Did you know that if that happens and you have no power of attorney for health, someone else makes decisions for you and your family is no longer in control?

Five Tips For Having Important Money Chat With your Parents Now (I consulted some financial services reps in town to find out their thoughts. Unfortunately they can`t be quoted by name.)

1. Take a Day or Two. Just you and your siblings and parents. No spouses or children present. Children have a way of making everyone focus on them. And that`s fine, but if money talk needs to be accomplished then you need full focus on your parents and your siblings. Spouses are part of the family, sure, but having them present may cause your parent or parents to clam up and be less forthcoming about sharing. This needs to be an honest, clear discussion.

2. Find and Enlist Those Experts Out There That Are Skilled with Seniors. My mother had a lovely banker named Jennie. She adored my Mom and My Mom had no qualms about asking her questions regarding power of attorney and how that worked with RIFs or RRSPs or mutual funds. Her sensitivity made a huge difference to the length of time my Mom was able to handle her own finances. Every banking and customer service person should be trained in working with seniors.

3. Listen. Plain and simple. Listen to what your Mom or Dad has to say. It is not your money. It`s theirs and it needs to be managed according to their wishes. One local expert advised following your parent’s cues. “I still have some clients with 90 year old parents that trust their bank and will not talk to their children.”

4. Offer your help. Offer to accompany them to the lawyer, the bank, the funeral home. Take notes while you are there if they want you to. (I have been going to the doctor with my Mom for a few years and I take notes now because it is very easy to get mixed up once you leave the office.)There is no substitute for being there and being present. Read up on the terms. There is a lot to know. What is power of attorney? Why is there one for health and finances? Who is the executor of your parent`s will? Where is a copy kept? What is the substitute decisions act? What are the personal wishes beyond the money? Would your Mom need money every week to have her hair done? Manicures, pedicures, foot care? Will they need extra money for a private nurse etc.? Or are they adamant about saving money even when they are in their 80s? There are many little things that you should know and chat about before they are unable to communicate their wishes.

5. Put Your Big Girl Panties On. My very good friend Margarita @downshiftingPOS is fond of saying this about a lot of situations. Here’s the application for me. Talking about money and estate planning with your Mom or Dad requires you to put big girl panties on. You need to become an adult to hear and help direct the conversation. You can’t do that if everyone, even you, still sees you as the baby of the family. So repeat after me: I am the adult here. I am the adult here. Now stop delaying, take the time today to get to know what your parents want in the future.

Visit for more information about how to plan for your future and the future of your parents.

I’m a Sandwich Generation Brand Ambassador for Comfort Life. I receive compensation to post, but my opinions are all my own. Read my first post here.

Comfort life is Canada’s trusted resource for retirement living and care.

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Mom of two beautiful active girls, traveller, fitness junkie, social media consultant, and keeper of the sanity.


  • Rossana

    Great post. SO hard for both parties when this time comes,nice to have some great tips to follow. I know only too well how difficult it can be!

  • Aeryn Lynne

    These are great tips! I’d like to add, don’t do this in a public setting, lol. My parents decided to take me and my sibs out for dinner, just before my dad’s surgery, and thought that would be the best place to bring up their living wills n’ stuff. It’s hard to enjoy the moment of a family dinner out, when you’re parents talk about how life keeps on living, not to mention being surround by strangers while you desperately try to find your big girl panties to put them on, lol.

  • Christine

    Such a great post! Great tips! Talking about this topic is generally pretty hard for many people. It’s so important to talk about though. Thanks again for posting this!

  • Wanda Lynne Young

    Thanks for all these great tips Paula. This long weekend my husband and I will be having a chat with my parents in the hopes of ironing out some sketchy retirement fund details. Recently it has come to our attention that my father needs to renegotiate the terms before he turns 80 this Fall. Wish me luck!

  • Wanda Lynne Young

    Thanks for all these great tips Paula. This long weekend my husband and I will be having a chat with my parents in the hopes of ironing out some sketchy retirement fund details. Recently it has come to our attention that my father needs to renegotiate the terms before he turns 80 this Fall. Wish me luck!

  • The Zoo

    While we discussed money when I was younger, I try not to bring it up now. I don’t want my parents thinking that I’ve already ordered that new car I had my eye on. Thanks for the reminder that it’s better to do it now rather then later.

    Besos, Sarah
    Zookeeper at Journeysof TheZoo

  • Margarita Ibbott @DownshiftingPOS

    That was a great post. I couldn’t agree with you more. I hold POA for my dad and I always make sure that my mom keeps all my other siblings in the loop!

    Love being part of the Sandwich Generation…always something interesting.

    BTW, thanks for the shout out about wearing my Big Girl Pants…

    Margarita @DownshiftingPOS