Money questions to ask aging parents
Here’s how Millennials can make sure Mom and Dad are on top of their finances.
The Millennial generation is getting older—and so are their parents. As the earliest members of the Millennial generation enter their 40s, they may find themselves wondering what kind of money questions they need to ask to ensure that their parents are in a good financial position to handle not only retirement, but also what comes afterwards.
We reached out to Jim Wang, founder of WalletHacks, to learn which questions were the most important to ask. We also asked him how to start these potentially difficult conversations, and how to check in with your parents on a regular basis without making Mom and Dad feel like you’re checking up on them.
In this article:
A master list of questions to ask aging parents
We put together a list of money questions for Millennials to ask their parents—and although not all of these questions may apply to you and your family, you can use our master list as a starting point.
- What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind? What generational wealth would you like to pass on to your children and grandchildren?
- What do you want your retirement to look like? Do you have plans to travel? Spend more time with grandkids?
- Do you plan on downsizing, or would you prefer to remain in the family home?
- Do you have any concerns about whether you have enough money saved for retirement? Do you have concerns about how to manage your money during retirement?
- Do you have a will? What about a trust?
- Do you have life insurance in place?
- Are your beneficiaries updated?
- Do you have a living will or advanced healthcare directive?
- Have you assigned power of attorney to anyone?
- Do you have a master list of all financial accounts, with updated passwords, that can be easily accessed during an emergency situation?
“These are all good questions to ask,” Wang says. “You definitely want to know where your parents’ financial accounts are—and, more importantly, if they have a legacy binder. This is a physical document that has all of their financial information in one place.”
In many cases, talking to your parents about creating a legacy binder can be the entry point into more tricky financial questions. It can also be a way for your parents to pass along important financial information, including end-of-life information, without having to have the more emotional conversations about specific details. They can simply create the binder and hand it off—or, if they prefer, let you know where it’s located.
How to ask your parents about their financial situation
While some Millennials may agonize over the best time to ask their parents about their finances, not to mention their retirement and their end-of-life goals, Wang suggests approaching the conversation with as little stress as possible.
“I think the simplest way is to come right out and ask about it,” says Wang. Instead of having a sit-down meeting that can make everyone uncomfortable or defensive, Wang advises Millennials to casually share their recent financial decisions with their parents—and then ask Mom and Dad if they might be interested in doing something similar.
“A casual question might spur your parents into action,” Wang explains. “You might tell them that you recently put together a legacy binder, for example, and ask Mom and Dad if that’s something they’ve looked into.”
While some Millennials may assume that they need to avoid these kinds of conversations over holiday visits—and, depending on your family culture, that may still be the case—Wang reminds us that extended holiday visits are often good opportunities for you and your parents to complete simple financial housekeeping chores. “A holiday visit may be a good time to show them your binder and then help them make their own, since they may have coinciding free time.”
How to check in with your aging parents
Asking your parents about their finances when they are in good health is one thing. Checking in with them over time to ensure that they aren’t dealing with unexpected financial, mental or physical difficulties is another. How can you keep up with your parents’ changing lives without making it feel like you’re checking up on them?
Once again, Wang suggests keeping it simple. “It’s important to talk to them generally about money and see if anything has changed recently. Just simple check-ins to see if everything is okay.”
If done right, these casual financial conversations could help you connect with your parents. You’re all adults, after all, dealing with bills and savings and concerns about inflation—and when you share how your family is dealing with the high price of groceries, you may find out a little more about how your parents are handling their financial concerns.
More importantly, these kinds of conversations can help you protect your parents from making serious financial mistakes—such as falling for scammers.
“Elder scams are rampant,” says Wang, “and from what I can tell, people only discover them by accident in the course of normal boring conversations. They don’t find it because they ask about power of attorney, they discover it when they ask about the person’s day.”
That may be the best question to ask your parents—at least to start. The way we spend our days has a lot to do with the way we spend our money, and the more you know about your parents’ day-to-day lives, the more you can help them with their long-term finances.
About Nicole Dieker
Nicole Dieker has been a full-time freelance writer since 2012, with a focus on personal finance and habit formation. In addition to Haven Life, her work regularly appears at Lifehacker, Bankrate, CreditCards.com, and Vox. Dieker spent five years as a writer and editor for The Billfold, a personal finance blog where people had honest conversations about money, and is the author of Frugal and the Beast: And Other Financial Fairy Tales.Read more by Nicole Dieker
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Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.
Our editorial policy
Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.
Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.
Haven Life is not authorized to give tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to seed advice from their own tax or legal counsel.
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