The last of the Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) are contemplating retirement. The first of this generation are in their late seventies. For many of you, your parents are in this group, some from the previous generation (the Silent Generation were born 1928-1945). As they continue to mature, how can you help them age gracefully? In the first part of this series, we explored an approach to take with your parents (You can read the first part here). In this second installment we will cover their finances. Talking to your parents about money concerns can be stressful, but if you work on open communication and remember to be respectful you can be a great help to your parents. Here are some areas to focus on.
Ask your parent’s about their wishes for the future. Where do they want to live? What kind of care do they want? What plans do they have for their stuff? What people or causes do they want to give to, either now or when they pass away? Having properly drawn up estate documents will help them in fulfilling their wishes. At minimum, they should have a will, Power of Attorney, (who can step in if needed), and a Healthcare Proxy, (to help guide medical care). Discuss with your parents where the documents are kept and who they want to step in to help if the need arises.
Ask them what their thoughts are about Long Term Care (LTC). Do they have a LTC policy or an annuity or life insurance policy with a LTC rider? Alternatively, do they have sufficient funds saved to self-finance the care if needed? Is the plan to sell their home and use the proceeds to pay for LTC? Not every person will require LTC, but having the discussion ahead of time will give clarity for the family.
Be observant of, but not interfering with, their spending. It’s still their money and they can do as they please with it. But there may come a time when they could use some help, so gently offer to assist or take over financial tasks. You could balance the checkbook, set up online bill pay, or review their credit card statements. Be sure to ask about a charge that looks out of character. Someone may be trying to take advantage of them. Fraudsters prey on the emotions of the elderly in an attempt to get them to hand over money. Or maybe they just like to spend. My friend’s mom loved the shopping channels on cable television. He would meet the delivery driver and immediately send back items mom didn’t need or couldn’t afford. Being available to help with finances may allow them to live out their days without the stress of money worries.
The fear of running out of money weighs on many seniors. This is where open communication about finances pays off. The more you know about their situation, the easier it is to allay that fear. If there is reason for concern, you can help your parents to carefully plan. This would be a good time to bring your financial planner into the picture. You can also look at your own resources, you may be able to help out financially.
What we all want is for mom and dad to live out their days as happy and productive family members. As you make finances a topic of conversation you can be an asset in helping them age gracefully.