Some adult parents will be oppositional when it comes to discussing financial matters with their children. The psychology behind this is that after having taught their children about money themselves, many resent the role reversal with adult children. An elderly parent may remember helping their adult child buy their first car, or opening their first savings account. Yet, this is why many adult children get involved with their parents' finances. It is because they care, have these memories and relationships, and wish to ensure their elderly parents are financially well.
The key to having an honest discussion with an elderly parent is mitigating their feelings of being patronized since they will likely feel uncomfortable. You can do this by managing how you approach the discussion. The first part of broaching an honest talk with parents to gauge their financial situation, support them through a perilous one, and do this all with empathy. Empathy entails recognizing that most seniors will be offended by their children giving them financial advice. As long as you understand this, you can work around it and have a rational, respectful discussion. Here are five tips for making it happen.
1. Keep Your Cool
When it comes to one's financial information, people can become defensive when someone asks them about it. They may feel like they are being judged, that the information is personal, or embarrassed. There's also a chance that a parent, especially, will become irritable as we mentioned before. When people become angry at you for asking probing questions, it's important that you remain calm and unflappable. If you remain composed, then the other person will often mirror your emotional control and calm themselves down. Additionally, if you respond with the same aggression or even hostility, you will not get any information out of them.
2. Try to Lower Elderly Parents' Boundaries
If you want someone to open up to you about their financial situation, then they have to feel comfortable talking to you. A lot of times this has to do with maintaining trust and a good relationship prior to the discussion, so build off that. If they have a particular place in their home that relaxes them, such as the kitchen or a garden, try approaching them in an environment where their guard is down. If that doesn't work, try helping around their home and making them dinner. You might find that they will freely and easily answer questions about their life and finances.
3. Meet Them in the Middle
Depending upon how close you are to your elderly parents (and even those with close relationships are not always transparent about their finances), you will find the type of condition they are living in. If you discover that they are living beyond their means or far too frugally, these tend to be habits of behavior that form over years of time. In other words, if you have suggestions for them as to how to manage their money, then try introducing changes in baby steps. No matter how alarming, a complete financial makeover and restructuring will likely frighten them away from continuing to work with you.
4. Address Their Needs Appropriately
At some point, you will have to assess their financial status and needs. Do they require state or government assistance to make ends meet? Do they currently participate in these programs and is it working? Alternatively, do they need to speak to lawyers about their wills? Lastly, do they need financial advisors? No matter their financial state, continue to help them and act respectfully.
5. Only Take on What You Can When Talking to Elderly Parents About Finances
At the end of the day, your parents are responsible for their financial choices in life. If you want to help them, don't take on more than you can afford. Also, remember that many elderly parents experience loneliness and empty nest syndrome throughout their lives. If you cannot make a financial contribution, try helping them with projects. If you live far away, try staying in touch via phone or video phone if possible. Your parents will appreciate your effort, even if it is not always the easiest topic to bring up.