Liz Weston: How to Talk About Money With Your Parents While On Vacation


Vacation meetings can be a great time to talk to your parents about important financial matters, such as estate planning or long-term care. The need to discuss this topic can be particularly acute if you don’t see your loved ones often or if this is your first vacation together since the start of the pandemic.

Be careful, however, as these discussions can easily go wrong. Diligent preparation, the right approach, and a respectful attitude can help your family tackle potentially uncomfortable topics without ruining the vacation, advises Amy Goyer, AARP’s national family and care expert.

Ideally, families would talk “early and often” about aging issues, she says. The more remote or theoretical the subject, the easier it can be to discuss. For example, talking about how to pay for assisted living or home assistance may be less difficult when the need is hypothetical than when your parent has just fallen down the stairs or is in the hospital.

“It’s hard to talk about finances, let alone in some kind of crisis,” Goyer says.

Most American adults say there are barriers when it comes to discussing important financial matters with family, according to research released in October by financial services firm Edward Jones in partnership with Age Wave and Harris Poll . The main problems are: avoiding family conflicts (22%), trying to avoid overburdening family members with their finances (20%) and being too uncomfortable discussing these topics (18%).

If you want to talk to your parents about money, consider the following steps.

First, adjust your attitude

Goyer bristles when people talk about having to “raise their parents” because the phrase seems disrespectful to him. Having a superior or condescending attitude towards your parents, or trying to tell them what to do, will only make the conversation more difficult, she says.

“Even if your role changes, you are still their child and therefore they deserve your respect,” says Goyer.

Instead, research options ahead of time so that you can present choices to your parents rather than giving orders. If they don’t have long-term care insurance, for example, they might be able to sell investments or tap equity in their home to pay for a retirement home stay. If they don’t have an advance directive or other estate planning documents, you can offer to help them use estate planning software or find an attorney who specializes in estate planning. If bills are not paid, you can offer to set up automatic payments, take over bill payment, or find a daily fund manager who will do it for a fee.

“The goal is for them to get what they want – to have their wishes fulfilled,” Goyer says.

Focus on the feelings

How you approach the subject will depend on your family dynamics. An indirect approach would be to mention that you have read an article on the subject or seen something on TV about it, or that you are doing similar planning for yourself.

“For some people, an indirect approach is more effective,” says Goyer. “For others, they will see right through you and be angry because you are indirect. “

Take the approach that you think will work best with your parents. Whichever way you bring it up, quickly rotate to ask for your parents’ point of view. It is important to listen more than to speak, especially at the beginning.

“Ask them what they think about finances, housework or driving or whatever,” Goyer says. “Do they sometimes feel uncomfortable? Do they sometimes feel in danger?

She says you could ask it in the form of a question, for example, “Did you ever feel like you would like some help doing this?” “”

Ask follow-up questions and consider paraphrasing what you hear to show that you are actively listening (using phrases like “What I hear you say is…”). People who feel heard are less likely to be defensive and more likely to listen to what you have to say, Goyer says.

If your parents aren’t upset about a situation, but you are, Goyer recommends using “I” statements.

“Never start anything with, ‘You have to do it,’” says Goyer. “Instead, say, ‘I’m worried about’ or ‘I want to help you. Your role is to support them.

Prepare to abandon ship

This support is about staying calm if your parents get angry, scared, or sad. Your loved ones may be embarrassed about their financial situation, worried about the future, or reluctant to need help. Acknowledge those feelings, even if you don’t agree with their point of view, Goyer says.

“If they don’t feel safe or if they feel angry about a change – afraid of a change – validate those feelings,” Goyer explains. “Change is difficult. “

But be prepared to drop the topic, at least for now, if tensions remain high.

“For some people (discussing money) is good, but for others, it will ruin the vacation,” says Goyer. “Maybe the holidays are when we watch, and we make a plan to talk about it later.”

Quote: The Harris Poll survey on behalf of Edward Jones and Age Wave was conducted August 12-16, 2021 among 2,020 US adults aged 18 and over. The results were weighted as necessary to bring them closer to their actual proportions in the population.

This article is intended to provide general information and should not be taken as legal guidance.


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Liz Weston is a columnist at NerdWallet, a certified financial planner and author of “Your Credit Score“. Email: Twitter: lizweston.


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