Insights for Your Journey

If you worry about aging parents, you’re not alone. Worldwide, the number of people aged 60 and older is on pace to double by 2050. Eventually it’s common to add finances to the list of other concerns like healthcare and safety.

Will they be able to look after their investments or financial matters at age 80 or 90 with the same level of care? Is it time for me to step in? How do I do this without insulting them?

This can be a touchy subject, but with the right approach and action plan, you can successfully help keep your parents’ finances in order and ensure you’re prepared to assist them if anything should happen. Here are six steps to consider when talking with your aging parents about their finances.

  1. Open the discussion. Your goal is to broach the financial topic without causing offense. You could start by mentioning that you’re creating your own financial plan and wondered if they’ve done the same. Or ask for their thoughts on a related topic like an upcoming car purchase, investment, or their approach to saving when they were your age. An informal, one-on-one conversation is best. A more formal sit down with multiple family members might come across like a financial intervention and may not be appreciated.
  2. Be honest about your intentions. Express that you care for them and have concern about how to make sure they are financially taken care of if they couldn’t care for themselves. The goal here is agreement to discuss their situation.
  3. Locate important documents. You’ll want to know how to access things like:
  • Bank and investment account statements
  • Wills, trusts, and other legal documents, including any Powers of Attorney they’ve assigned
  • Insurance policies
  • Titles for real estate, cars, and other property
  • Social security payments
  • Safe deposit boxes
  1. Get access to bank and investment accounts. This usually requires advanced planning, paperwork with the various institutions, and could require you to have a Power of Attorney for them. This enables you to continue helping with financial transactions, writing checks, and accessing their funds for their benefit. Make sure to consult an attorney for any legal matters.
  2. Be open with your family. Transparency is important when it comes to helping aging parents with their finances. It’s not uncommon to see the efforts of a well-intentioned child of an elderly parent cause suspicion or conflict with other siblings simply because their actions weren’t discussed in advance.
  3. Respect their wishes and work with them. Most importantly, this is about your parents, their heath, and their wellbeing. Work with them in partnership, not in conflict with them to persuade them to do things that make them uncomfortable.

Good questions are often the key to great conversations. Be curious about what’s important to them and how they would like to be helped when the time is right. Then, it’s not about the money, it’s about making sure they have the care and provision they’ll need in this next season of life.

Alterra Advisors - Josh Whelan

Josh Whelan

CFP®, CLU®, ChFC®
Partner, Financial Advisor

About the Author

Josh sees his profession as a calling, not just a career. His motive for pursing financial planning was very personal. While working on a degree in marriage and family counseling, Josh’s father was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Josh decided then and there to change career paths to help his family prepare for an uncertain financial future. Financial planning became his path to serving others.

Josh applies his passion for personal relationships and helping people thrive as a financial steward. His “listen first” approach seeks to understand his clients’ true financial goals and then offer the open communication and guidance needed to reach those goals.

A native of the Pacific Northwest and a graduate of Seattle Pacific University, Josh serves many kinds of clients, but has established a niche helping dentists integrate their personal and practice finances. He’s also a regular lecturer at the University of Washington School of Dentistry, helping the school integrate financial education into the curriculum.

The “Alterra” name was coined by joining the Latin roots “alter”, the origin of the word “altruism” with “terra” meaning earth or land. This name reflects the company philosophy of “clients before profits” and providing firmly grounded advice.

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