Money can be a difficult topic for many people to talk about. Add the parent/child dynamic and it’s no wonder many families avoid these conversations until it’s too late or much harder to intervene. However, living through the COVID-19 pandemic has made all of us think more about the future and our own mortality. That’s why now is a perfect time to broach the subject of money management with your aging parents. Here’s how to have a successful conversation about what your parents want, any plans they already have in place, and how you could help, now or in the future.
Pick the right time to intervene
Ultimately, only you can decide when it’s the right time to intervene. If you have siblings, talk to them first to see how involved they are willing or able to be. Whether you live near your parents or not, try as much as possible to notice signs of cognitive decline. You’ll also know it’s time to have the conversation if your parents start to complain about problems with bills or you see that they can’t maintain their current lifestyle. There is no one-size-fits all or predetermined age for when this conversation needs to happen. Some people stay mentally sharp and independent until the very end of their lives.
The most common warning signs include:
- Phone calls from creditors, charitable organizations, or new “friends.”
- Unopened mail from credit card companies or collection agencies.
- Forgetfulness around how much cash they have on hand or where they keep it.
- Bounced checks and other unusual account activity.
- Increased spending, particularly on purchases that seem out of character.
This is a hard situation for any adult child to be in. But if you don’t help, things could get a lot worse. So, take a deep breath and learn how to have a successful conversation about this topic.
Start a conversation about finances
Current events can provide the springboard you need to start a hard conversation. Whether it’s something related to the economy, like stock market performance, or related to health, like the latest Coronavirus variant, ask your parents how they are being affected by current events.
For example, talk of the hot housing market may prompt them to share that they’re considering selling their home to move into an assisted living facility. On the other hand, discussion of the pandemic may lead to a disclosure that they’ve been having trouble paying their bills, perhaps due to extra medical bills in the past year.
Another strategy is to share your own situation first and see where that leads. So, you could share your own recent estate planning moves or whether you’re on track to save enough for retirement. By making yourself vulnerable in sharing your own plans and fears, you may lower their defenses enough to get a conversation flowing.
Set up automatic bill pay
If your parents are having difficulties staying on top of their bills, you may want to introduce them to digital tools like automatic bill pay if they are not utilizing them already. This can help take the human error element out of this process and ensures that they never fall behind and risk losing their home or damaging their finances in other ways.
SENB Bank offers an Online Bill Payment service to help you keep your parents’ finances in one convenient location. Schedule bill payments as one-time or recurring payments, view pending payments, and download year-end account information. Help your parents enroll in online banking to get started with Bill Pay.
Educate your parents about scams
It’s difficult for people of any age to stay up-to-date on the ever-changing landscape of digital scams taking place nowadays, but seniors are specifically targeted by scammers who want to take advantage of them. Because they often have savings, pensions, retirement funds, and valuables, many scammers will target seniors with phone scams, email phishing scams, fraudulent websites to steal their money or personal information. These scams can take many forms, from someone pretending to be a distant grandchild to scammers claiming to be calling from reputable organizations like banks, Amazon, PayPal, and Microsoft. Help your parents protect themselves by learning these tips:
- Never click on a link or open an attachment within an email that you weren’t expecting, even if the email appears to come from a company or service you recognize.
- If you receive an unexpected notification, open your browser and navigate to the platform’s website. Then, you can log in to your account knowing that you’re on the platform’s real website and not a phony look-alike website.
- Watch out for fake customer service phone numbers. If you need assistance, check the vendor’s website to find their customer service phone number or email address.
- Don’t share sensitive information, such as credit card numbers or social security numbers, over the phone.
- Valid companies won’t ask you to pay by gift card or money wire.
Ask your parents to contact you if they’re unsure whether an email or voicemail message is legitimate. Better safe than sorry!
Compile important documents
Hopefully, your parents will already have a last will and testament at the very least. Additional estate planning documents such as power of attorney documentation and insurance policies should be organized along with other basic information that the executor of the will would need to find such as safe deposit box keys, bank account information, etc. Ask your parents to make a master list of documents and let you know where they are. If your parents do not already have power of attorney or a last will set up, they should get this done immediately.
Schedule a consultation today!
If you and your parents need a second set of eyes to assess their financial situation and offer recommendations, consider scheduling a consultation with a Wealth Management Specialist. A solid, personal financial plan can help you prepare for tomorrow while making better decisions today. Wherever you want to go in life, our wealth management team can help you get there! Let our friendly, local team of personal financial consultants help you plan for and reach a successful financial future. Call us today to schedule an appointment!