John Bullis: Let’s have that private talk
December 18, 2012
It has been reported that only 25 percent or so of adults with children regularly talk with their own parents about money and financial matters.
The older generation may be facing financial problems and concerns. They are living longer these days and their savings may have been greatly reduced or eliminated. As the value of their homes has gone down and they are earning much less on the bank accounts, savings and bonds, they are probably worried about the future.
The goal is to not run out of money, and beg your children for help. But when times are tight, maybe their best option is to ask their children (or other family members) for some help, advice or at least understanding. Many members of the older generation will sacrifice a lot and do without, rather than ask for help.
That’s why it’s important for the adult children to start the conversations. For example, they should be ready to talk about long-term care expenses likely in the future and how maybe long term-care insurance might be considered. Maybe just learning about the income and expenses will suggest some changes to consider.
An open two-way conversation that explains the current and expected financial situation for the older generation can be a big help. Just sharing the facts is a start. Most problems can be solved one way or the other. But it is hard to give good advice without knowing the facts.
Maybe the adult children can start by sharing what they have done in designating beneficiary designations and their own wills and power of attorney forms. Then, if possible, they can gently inquire about the estate planning documents of their parents.
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The power of attorney for financial matters is especially important. It can avoid the burdensome and costly court guardianships.
It’s not easy for most families to talk about money or the possibility that each of us will die. I have a special benefit since one of my grandfathers started a mortuary in Montana and my father had many occupations, one of which was mortician. Death was a topic we could discuss easily and frankly. But, it is still very difficult when a family member is ill or dies.
Sometimes a neutral third party can facilitate a productive discussion about financial planning issues. Maybe the older folks’ attorney or CPA can start the conversation. Then it is easier to do follow-up meetings to go into various topics, some of which are not really financial, but still quite important.
Why not have that talk about financial matters, so all parties, young and old, can effectively plan for the future?
Did you hear? “Over every mountain is a path that can’t be seen from the valley?”
• John Bullis is a certified public accountant, personal financial specialist and certified senior adviser serving Carson City for 45 years. He is founder emeritus of Bullis and Company CPAs, LLC.