Your Parents and Their Money: Seven Issues You Need to Address

Discussing money with a parentTalking to your parents about growing old and their plans for the future is hard to do. After all, they still remember changing your diapers. What could you possibly know that they don't?

Talking about their money is even harder -- worse than talking about sex. And you remember that awkward conversation, don't you?

Here are seven ways to break the ice on some of the toughest conversations that you and your mom and dad should have.1. Start With the Easy Stuff

Creating a health care power of attorney is something everybody -- not just older people -- should do, because illness or accidents can happen at any age. Getting your parents to think about who will make a decision about their health care if they can't isn't very threatening, and asking them to formalize it can be a family affair.

2. Ask Them to Tell You Where They Store Important Information

Many people -- both old and young -- aren't willing to share their financial specifics, but they will tell you how to find the key paperwork, including wills, insurance policies, banking information, deeds, titles and so on. Just having them point you toward the right filing cabinet is a step in the right direction.

3. Urge Them to Make a Will

You aren't asking them what they're leaving to you; you're just asking them to make some decisions so when the inevitable happens, the state won't step in and divvy up what's left in ways that they clearly wouldn't like. It's especially important for a couple to have a will in those states where the spouse doesn't automatically inherit everything.

4. Find Out What They Have Planned Next

One night, when everybody is feeling mellow, ask your mom and dad to share their plans. Where would they like to live next? Where would they prefer to live if they can't live alone? If they can't live alone, would they prefer to live with one of their children or in some sort of assisted living facility? Keep it light. This shouldn't be an inquisition, simply a conversation to find out what they really want.

5. Segue Into the Tougher Conversations

Try a door-opener like: "Hubby and I are saving for retirement. Do you and Pop wish you'd saved more? Do you think you're going to have enough?"

6. Ask for What You Want

If you've been coveting that lovely vase Mom has on the mantel, then tell her. If what you want is an even bigger gift -- "We'd really like to have the lake house" -- be prepared to do a little horsetrading: "If we take over paying your taxes, will you put the lake property in a trust for us so it's ours when you pass on?"

7. Give Gifts That Pay Off

For instance, buying your parents long-term-care insurance can be seen as an investment in your financial future if it means they won't have to spend every penny they have before the end comes. Hiring someone to scrape the driveway when it snows could protect Mom from slipping and falling on the way to the mailbox.
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