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How to Talk to Aging Parents about Money Problems

By Steve Stewart

Over the past year I have received calls and messages from adult children who are concerned for their parent’s finances. Papa has been working hard for decades and Mama was promised that she would never have to work outside of the home again. Papa has been stripped of any financial responsibilities because he wrote some bad checks years ago. Mama took over the household finances since then but has a problem with over-consumption. As a result they have more debt than they have money saved. They have no idea what retirement is going to look like when Papa turns 65. How do you talk to your parents about their money problems? When visiting with aging parents this holiday season, look for signals or cues for the inroads to talk with your parents about their money problems. It’s not comfortable, it certainly won’t be fun, but you want what is best for your parents. Your best bet is to follow the do’s and don’ts of how to talk to parents about their money problems. Do’s: Continue finding opportunities to bring up what you have learned. Be a real-life testimony for your parents to learn from. Blame the CULTURE for all “easy credit” and for removing the stigma of maintaining tons of debt. This is an “I understand your difficulties, Mom and Dad” point-of-view and it might bring them closer to realizing the problem. Encourage your Dad through this difficult time. He is the best chance of making an “inroad” for change in your Mom. Ask them “What are you going to do when Dad stops working”? (Things that make you go hmmmmm) Ask them “What did your parents do when retiring with very little money”?   Don’ts: Don’t EVER say “Dave Ramsey says” unless grandmama listens to his radio show herself. Don’t EVER sit quietly by when the word “bankruptcy” is spoken. This is a great time to speak up and preach about personal responsibility. Don’t EVER give them money without a requirement for change or you will discover the $100 electric bill you paid for your mom is exactly the same amount she spent at the department store the next day.  
 These suggestions may not solve the problem but they will open the doors for opportunities to help. Giving up on them would be disrespectful, even if they tell you to buzz off and mind your own business! Be patient and remain alert for any opportunities that might help your parents pay attention, not interest.   Talk to your trusted advisor or seek help from a trained Financial Wellness Coach.

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