By Howard Rothman
NEW YORK (
)--Are you thinking that it's time to talk with your aging parents about their financial situation? If you aren't, you should be.
More and more Baby Boomers and older Gen Xers are hearing about friends who have suddenly discovered their parents no longer have the resources or wherewithal to meet their fiscal obligations. Or about someone's parent dying or becoming incapacitated before sitting down to discuss money matters -- forcing the adult children to shoulder a slew of emotional and financial burdens as they attempt to track down key financial documents and other personal data.
But experts say it doesn't have to be this way, even though family discussions about money are never easy.
Increasingly, older Americans face financial strains as they confront growing health care expenses with diminishing resources. As a result their grown children are often required to step in, even as they're providing financial assistance to their own offspring and preparing for their own retirement. "This is genuinely unprecedented in the U.S. and around the world," says Paula Span, a contributor to the
New York Times
' "The New Old Age" blog.
Even worse, many seniors have never discussed such matters with their kids -- who have no real idea what resources exist, or where relevant paperwork can be found.
So, if you haven't had "the talk" yet, do it. This will help you care for your parents in the way they desire, ease your own worries, and allow you to continue working toward your own financial goals. But it must be done with sensitivity, cautions Nicole Francis, a financial adviser at Hudson Advisory Group in New York. Controlling one's money is a major aspect of adult independence and no one wants to willingly give it up.
Here are ten tips for doing it right:
1-Don't wait for a crisis to begin
Don't delay, especially if you already have questions about your parents' finances or their ability to handle them. Span cites research indicating one early sign of dementia is financial -- "
falling prey to scams
, making bad investments, not paying bills or paying them twice." But even in the absence of such missteps, it's important to open the conversation while you still can. "Have these discussions when they are still able to tell you what they have and what they want," Span says.