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Money & Aging: A Checklist of Topics to Discuss with Your Parents

August 16, 2021

I’m just going to say it. Having discussions about money and aging with parents who are growing older…well….

It stinks.

It’s so uncomfortable, isn’t it? One minute they’re taking care of us and the next we’re thinking about when we might need to take care of them.

But just like they told us to eat our vegetables when we were little, this is something we might need to take control of at some point.

First, let’s call out why these conversations are so hard:

  1. Talking about money is personal – especially to older generations. Many were taught to believe that it’s just not something you discussed.
  2. There could be some shame surrounding finances. What if you discover that your parent isn’t as financially “set” as you thought they were? Your parent might not want you to know that – but it’s vital that you do.
  3. You’re the kid! You’re not supposed to be taking care of them. It’s supposed to be the other way around. Figuring out this new dynamic is hard.

Let’s break this down and make it a little easier.

There are things you need to discuss that are more day-to-day issues and some that will affect long-term planning.

Here’s a checklist of day-to-day topics to consider:

  • Review bills and banking accounts.
  • Make sure bills are being paid (especially the semi-annual or annual, like property tax and life insurance).
  • Talk to your parents about scams and how to avoid them. Make sure they know you’re there to help without judgement should they fall victim to one (it really can happen to anyone at any age!).
  • Make sure Required Minimum Distributions are being taken.
  • Talk about their budget and if they’re still feeling comfortable with where they are.

Before we get into more long-term planning and decision making, let’s make sure to stay organized.

  • Do you know where all the necessary documents and accounts are located?
  • Are their beneficiaries up-to-date?

Knowing this will make your life a lot easier should the unthinkable happen; you don’t want to be searching for essential documents should your parent fall ill or pass away.

Now, for the long-term planning discussions.

  • Do your parents have long-term care insurance?
  • Would it make sense to choose which siblings are responsible for things like:
    • Paying bills
    • Doctor’s appointments
  • What types of end-of-life documents do they have? For example:
    • Will or trust
    • Powers of Attorney (medical and/or financial)
  • What would the like for their end-of-life celebration? Is there a budget for that?

Again, I know you want to do this about as much as you want to scrub the grout in your bathroom, but unfortunately it needs to happen. And if you’re looking at these topics and wishing you had someone to help guide the conversation, then let’s talk. Making an appointment with an impartial third party could not only make sure that you get it done (we’re more likely to do something when it’s on the calendar), it might help take some of the stress out of what could be an emotional situation.

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