Simple Strategies to Talk With Aging Parents About Finances
One benefit of the increasing life expectancies for Americans is that more people have bonus years for enjoying the company of their aging parents.
But all is not rosy. Those extended years also boost the odds that parents could go broke or suffer from dementia and be unable to make financial decisions for themselves.
That can leave adult children perplexed about when and whether they should step in and find out what’s happening with their parents’ money, says Carolyn Rosenblatt, a registered nurse and elder law attorney.
“Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to have those conversations,” says Rosenblatt, co-author with her husband, Dr. Mikol Davis, of The Family Guide to Aging Parents (www.agingparents.com) and Succeed With Senior Clients: A Financial Advisors Guide To Best Practices.
“Some stubborn parents just refuse to talk about their money. No matter what their adult children say to them, they put it off, change the subject or tell their children it’s none of their business.”
Of course, many adult children aren’t in any particular hurry to broach the subject either, says Davis, a clinical psychologist and gerontologist.
“They have their own discomfort about it and procrastinate,” he says. “Then a crisis comes up and no one has any idea what the parents have or where to find important documents.”
But Rosenblatt and Davis say it’s critical that these conversations take place so that the offspring can gather information about such subjects as the parent’s income and expenses, where legal documents are kept, and what kind of medical or long-term-care insurance the parent might have.
The success of these conversations often comes down to how you approach the subject, Rosenblatt and Davis say. They offer a few tips:
- End the procrastination by picking a date for the talk. Make an appointment with yourself to bring up the subject at a specific time. An opportune time to schedule this is after a birthday, a family event or a holiday where other family members are together who may share in the responsibility for the aging parents in the future.
- Show respect. Tell your parents you understand and respect their reluctance to discuss their finances. You can even make the conversation about yourself rather than about them. Say that you’re concerned that if something went wrong, you would be completely lost as to how to help them.
- Address their fears head-on. Let them know you understand they are worried that if they talk about their finances their independence might be taken away. You might add that you want them to maintain their independence as long as possible and you’re willing to help accomplish that, but you can’t do it without the correct information.
“Getting past an aging parent’s fear about talking about finances can be daunting,” Rosenblatt says. “But a well-planned strategy for approaching the subject will give you your best chance.”
Advisors Will Be Extinct in 5 Years Unless…
I’ve had financial advisors for more than 40 years. Not once in those years have I called my advisor to find out what stock/funds I should buy or sell. But I have called to find out where I should get my first mortgage, when to sell my house, or how much income I could get in retirement.
In short -- and I think I’m pretty typical – I was looking for financial advice, as it relates to my life.
Here’s the disconnect, what most advisors do is simply manage their clients’ assets. They determine what to buy, and what to sell, they think about risk management, about growing their practice by finding new clients and about getting paid.
Historically that has been the business model. But as more women take control over financial assets, they, like me, will be looking for a different experience. And unless the financial community is willing to change ….. advisors, as they are today will be extinct in five years.
Advisors who want to survive will have to do a lot more than just manage money – they will have to provide genuine “advice”. That means doing what’s right for the client, not pushing product and pretending it’s advice.
Women especially, but all investors generally, are becoming more and more cynical. They says, “If I want advice about reducing my debt, that’s what I want and not ‘here’s more debt’ because that’s what my advisor gets paid for! And if saving taxes is what I want then saving taxes should take precedent over selling me a product.”
You may be thinking that spending your time providing advice isn’t lucrative but the reality is that in the long run – it pays off in spades. The advisors who take the time to build real relationships with clients, who provide advice as it relates to their clients’ lives, even when there is no immediate financial benefit to themselves, those who don’t simply push product – are the ones who over time have the most successful practices.
Generally women understand and value service, but they will say, “If I’m paying, I want to know what I’m paying for: Is it for returns? Is it for advice? Is it for administration? I want to know. Then I can make up my mind what’s worth it and what isn’t.”
Investing is becoming a commoditized business and technology is replacing research that no one else can find. Today the average advisor is hard pressed to consistently beat the markets, and with women emerging as the client of the future, unless they start providing real advice, their jobs will likely be extinct in five years.
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