In my more recent posts I have tried to encourage parents to teach their children about money and provided a guide. Now for the more difficult one, how to talk to your own parents about their finances. There is a very distinct difference between talking to your parents and children about money because of the authority over them. You should have authority over your children and you should not have authority over your parents. Therefore, it will be much easier to have children be honest about money and to coach them than to your parents. That being said, you financial success is linked with your parents’ financial success, so knowing where they stand is crucial.
The First Thing You Should Ask
When you finally build the courage to ask you parents you need to be coaxable, not prying. If you start asking them everything from health insurance to retirement you will sound like you are suggesting that they are becoming old. No one wants to hear their child tell them they are old.
Truth is you only need to know the basics unless something is seriously wrong. So start with the basics. Ask them how their car is doing and if they have good insurance. That is a great start.
Going A Bit Further
Then ask if they plan on moving or if they have settled for their house. Ask them how the mortgage and everything is going. At this point it is at least noticeable you are trying to make sure they are financially fine. They may tell you you shouldn’t worry. Do not pull back now there are two ways to go.
Do They Seem Financially Fine?
The first way is that you can tell them that have taught you well and you are not worried, but you want to know if anything seems wrong. I do not think any parent will be insulted. They may tell you everything broadly that they have the house under control, they have a retirement fund, and have good health insurance. Unless there is evidence to the contrary, you should take their word for it as they have probably taught you well and have likely practiced what they preached. Also, they have a right to privacy. Prying any further in this case is not how to talk to your parents about their finances. Now if they do say they have troubles, or show evidence otherwise, the best you can be is supportive in the present and do not point out that they should have told you this sooner.
Do They Not Seem Financially Fine?
The second way is if they do not seem financially ok. If there is any evidence that your parents are financially struggling, you need to start a bit more supportive than just caring. State that they have taken care of you and that you will be willing to help them through whatever they want. They may turn down the offer, let them. Humans are prideful and people will feel a certain way about taking money at their child’s own costs. However, there are multiple ways to talk to them about it and to minimize the impact. My recommendation is to just be supportive emotionally and tell them they can come to you whenever they need help, but ask them if they at least want to sit down and discuss where they are struggling. Once again do not be prying.
Sit Them Down First
Do not just provide them money, not instantly. Make sure they sit down and take a look at bills and some statements. I would not be surprised if your parents’ immediate financial situation could be solved with a little budgeting. They may be reaching a retirement age and will have to go through larger changes. Ask them if they would be willing to downsize. I know that may be a lot to ask, but for many people downsizing was part of their retirement plan. Offer to help them to move.
Provide Them With Money
Unfortunately, your parents may be facing income shocks or medical bills they cannot pay. If that is the case you should establish how much money and how frequently you can pay them. It may be hard to convince them to accept so once again do not be prying. They may just need to stabilize or wait for something, but always be open to what you have established.
Your parents have been your rock for the earliest part of your life. If need be, you should be their rock in the later part of their life. First, you need to learn how to talk to your parents about their finances as this is a sensitive topic. Once you learned how to talk to your parents about their finances it is time to step up to the plate. You should not be too surprised if your parents are financially stable and do not require your help. In fact if they do, it is more likely they just need to sit down and talk about their situation, then they can make a new plan to be financially stable and to help them forge their wealth.