Financially Fit in 5

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The Senior Series – Starting the Conversation

After driving a car, giving up the ability to handle your own financial matters is the greatest loss of independence.   It is no wonder we hold onto our financial independence often for longer than we are capable of handling it.

It is really hard to open up and talk about money.  It’s personal, very personal, and it can come with a lot of emotion.  For this series, I’m talking about your senior parents and their money, a discussion which is complicated enough.  Add to this, a generation which was brought up during the Great Depression,  a group which is tight lipped and suspicious, and often the important conversations between senior parents and their adult children are hard to get started.

My own parents were hesitant to open the conversation.  I did broach the subject as delicately as possible after my Mom became ill and my Dad began showing signs of memory loss.   To their credit, I did have the necessary legal paperwork to intervene if it became necessary.   Unfortunately, as with most people, nothing was discussed until the “crisis event.”

It would be great to have these conversations in advance of a problem occurring.  I wonder why my parents chose to let things go until there was an issue and then needed me make the decisions.  Wouldn’t it have been a much better plan to tell me exactly what they wanted done and how they wanted things handled?

If you’re a senior parent reading this, I ask you to start the conversation with your own adult children.  When you start the conversation and lay out the ground rules, you retain the power by making your wishes known.  Keep in mind this is not an all or nothing scenario.  Start with a discussion of who will be your financial POA (Power of Attorney).  Make an “Asset List” and let your POA know where to find the list.  (An asset list would be a listing of all your income and investments along with the addresses and phone numbers.)  You can also make up an expense list – a listing of your bills, the addresses of the biller, and the normal monthly amount.  If and when you start to need assistance with your routine financial administration, start out with help writing the checks or setting up online banking.   You can continue to retain signature on the checking account and/or the log on info.  The move to have someone else take over your financial administration can be and should be gradual.  As you become more (or less) comfortable with the handling of your affairs, you can make changes.

If you’re the adult child trying to find out how to best help your parents as they age, how can you start the conversation?   It certainly can depend on the situation.  Keep in mind that the “when” can be as important as the “how.”  If you are finding piles of mail unopened or if your parent seems confused about the monthly bills, you probably need to act quickly and be more direct.  If you live far away, you may need to be more organized about when and how you will have the discussion.

The easiest way to have the conversation is to have an “icebreaker.”  You can talk about yourself or maybe a friend and you could use the reading of this blog as an impetus.  You can ask about their experience and ask for their advice.   And most importantly, in having this conversation,  you need to be respectful and invite your parents to share with you.

Almost 70% of adults have difficulty talking to family about money and financial decisions.  These conversations and take courage, but the first step – starting the conversation – is always the hardest.

If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to reach out to me,     If you would like to be alerted when I write a new blog, you can send me an email, link up with me on Linked-In, or follow me on Facebook

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