In May, I attended a women’s conference with our COO – who also happens to be my mother. I took care of our registration and parking, decided what sessions we should go to, made sure we got there on time, and as we walked into the conference, I helped my mom put on her sweater. In that moment, she stopped, looked at me, and said, “My, how the roles have changed. It was only yesterday when I was taking care of you, and now, you are taking care of me.”
It’s funny how that happens. Those roles reverse, and we, the children, find ourselves taking care of our parents. Sometimes, we assume the responsibility suddenly, and sometimes, gradually over time. We start taking steps to make sure our parents will be okay as they get older – and naturally, financial concerns arise. In the past few months, I had several friends and clients say to me,
- “My parents have worked so hard, and they have done so much to give me the life I have today. I just want to make sure that they will be okay in retirement.”
- “My dad always handled the money. I don’t think my mom knows anything about the finances, and I’m worried how she will be if something happens to my dad.”
- “I can tell my dad isn’t what he used to be. His health is declining, and I am worried that he might not be able to take care of the money like he used to.”
If you have similar concerns, then here are a few ways to get started with helping your parents manage their financial affairs –
- Respect privacy but show concern – some of our older clients don’t want to share specific details about their finances with their children, but they appreciate that their children care. They may even be more motivated to do something if their children start getting involved.
- Encourage your parents to declutter and get organized – If something were to happen to one or both of your parents, what would you need to be able to manage their financial affairs on their behalf? We provide a USB drive for our clients with a checklist and manual of what items to have on hand (examples include statements, important phone numbers, estate planning docs, etc). Make sure your parents have a spot for these most important documents, and they let you know of this. When the time comes, this will be your road map.
- Make sure BOTH parents are involved – Unfortunately, it is common for one parent (the wife) to be left out of the financial conversation, but enough is enough. Give your mom the confidence to understand her financial situation. Make sure she has the opportunity to get her questions answered in advance.
- Delegate – you know I’m going to say this, but talking to a financial advisor can help. As our parents get older, they are going to have important financial questions that go beyond managing the investments. They may have questions about meeting their lifestyle needs in retirement (“Do I have enough to live on?”), covering health expense (Medicare, long-term care, etc), maximizing social security, and so much more. By delegating the task of managing their financial affairs, your parents can have the peace of mind. An advisor they trust is overseeing their financial affairs, so that they can spend more time enjoying their retirement.
Sometimes, it is hard to imagine a time where we would be responsible for taking care of our parents. We always think of them as these independent, self-sufficient people who can handle life on their own. They are the ones who taught us how to do that, right? As their children, our goal can be to show our support and love, help them prepare and connect them to resources, so they can continue to be our role models.