There’s a commercial on the radio these days with a child asking, “Are we there yet?” Then, a few seconds later, it’s a senior family member asking with a shaky voice, “Are we there yet?” The commercial is a simple but vivid lesson that we all play different roles in life, being a child dependent, a care provider, and then a dependent again as we age. Parents are no exception, and as time passes people of all stripes find themselves needing to help their loved ones with money and finances.
Not every bit of help requires paying for bills either. Many times assistance to parents comes in the form of just needing to step in and provide discussion, monitoring, help, guidance or simple assistance getting financial activities taken care of. The reasons can be many from mobility to financial acuity as one gets older and deals with sickness or failing mental abilities. And every generation finds itself in the same role, with a lot of common issues we can all learn from:
1. Anticipate Money is Embarrassing
We’ve all been taught to be self-sufficient, so it can be extremely hard for parents, particularly older generations, to ask for help. Many won’t say anything, suffering in silence and believing that asking for help is a sign of weakness. In reality, younger helping relatives need to anticipate this and approach fears and egos softly. Communication is the key factor in successful help, but it won’t happen if people don’t open up.
2. No one Wants to be a Burden
Again, socially the idea of needing financial help or guidance is seen as burdening someone younger. American society is big on keeping younger generations free of familial responsibility today, but it’s only a recent phenomenon created by government social service programs.3 In the old days, entire families took care of generations in the same house.
3. Use Current Issues on the News to Open Up Discussions
Older generations have more time to spend listening to the news, so it’s a great avenue to open up discussions about money, using someone else’s example as a lesson or question about a parent’s financial status.2 Use these avenues to gain status information and spot risks before they become problems.
4. Respect Privacy
Parents are still well aware of their lives and don’t take kindly to someone, particularly a child, abruptly stepping in and directing their business.(4) Don’t be rude. Instead, be patient and wait for a parent to share information versus demanding it.
5. Visit Regularly
Presence and awareness of daily changes are the easiest and fastest ways to see if something funny is going on. And it opens up regular channels for discussion.6 Parents aren’t keen on opening up their lives if a child doesn’t visit more than once a year.
6. Show Them the Safe Internet as Free Information Resource
Today’s older parents are the last generation that will exist who has lived two-thirds of their lives without the Internet. By guiding them to key digital resources for financial advice and how to search for it, as well as what to avoid, you can build both a means of talking about finance, teaching them, and providing a platform by which to help them with guidance without lecturing.1 Let the Internet provide the information and try to use it as a catalyst to engage closely with your parents. Be careful though that you teach them safe internet habits.
Don't Ignore, Engage
The last thing you want to do with a parent who needs financial help is ignore them. Where there is a vacuum, it will be filled by something quickly.5 And older parents needing financial guidance will eventually find it in some form, often times a scam. Even financial advisers have been easily fooled, and they’re trained in the industry. So, don’t believe a scam only takes advantage of uneducated folks. In fact, the more educated a person is, the more likely a scam might work if intricate enough. By being involved, you can see these issues coming and help your parents avoid them before getting involved, but you have to be present and engaged.
In my practice, I often help people begin the process of assisting a parent or other loved one. I can be a respectful and neutral third party to assist with difficult discussions. If you think I can be of some help, give me a call and let's talk.
This content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information, and provided by Twenty Over Ten. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security.