The coronavirus has all of us thinking about the future. When will things get back to “normal?” When can we work and shop and go to school the way we used to? You probably have financial questions on the brain, too. Will I still be able to buy a home in the next year or so? Will my budget keep changing to keep up with the pandemic?
All of this change has made us think about big picture things and how we can care for ourselves… and those we love… in the future. No one likes to think about what it would be like if our loved ones were seriously ill or gone from our lives, but the coronavirus has brought those conversations to the forefront.
While it’s not always fun, you can use this time to talk with your parents about their financial future. You might find that the conversations are not as scary as you expected, and they may even bring you closer together.
Start with an honest conversation
How do you approach the topic with your parents? You definitely don’t want to scare them, especially if they’re extra anxious about COVID-19. A tactful way to bring it up is to come from a place of respect and concern.
Talk about how the pandemic has made you start thinking about planning for the unexpected and preparing for the future. Mention that you’d like to discuss how prepared they are for what’s ahead in their lives, and that if they need help with anything now, you’re in. Eventually, you can start having regular talks with your parents about their finances.
Get basic financial information
Your parents may need time to think about their finances and get their information together. Give them time to gather their thoughts and documents before continuing your conversation.
If they’re not ready to talk about the tough stuff yet, like their wishes for after they’ve passed away or become ill, you can start small by simply asking where you can find their basic financial information. Is it in a desk drawer? A safe? With an attorney or advisor? Both of you may feel more secure if something happens to them and you know where to find their key financial info.
Figure out how to help them
How might you help your parents with their current finances? That depends on what they tell you, what their relationship with money is like, and to be honest, what their relationship with technology is like.
Technology makes it easier for everyone to handle their finances, particularly in the middle of the pandemic, but older adults who aren’t tech-savvy may be struggling.
If that’s the case, ask your parents how they’re doing with online banking and paying bills. Do they have trouble logging in on time to pay bills and check their accounts? You might set up automatic bill pay for their regular bills so they don’t have to worry about it. You might even set up a time to check in on their accounts together during a call or video chat.
Look into having a power of attorney as well, which will let you make financial decisions for your parents in case they cannot do it themselves.
Talk about the tough stuff
After you’ve talked about their current finances, look a bit further into the future and discuss where they’d like to live as they grow older. If they still live together in their own home, would they prefer to stay there and hire help if needed? What if one of your parents passes away first? Does that change their preference?
And if they can’t stay in their home, would they rather move in with you or another family member? Would they rather live in a retirement community? This is a good time to review any insurance policies that can cover some of the costs for long-term care.
It’s probably one of the hardest things to think about and discuss in this blog, but consider what you and your parents would like to do if they’re seriously ill or incapacitated. Will you make health decisions on their behalf? A living will outlines your parents’ wishes and ensures they’re carried out in that situation.
Take it one step at a time
Keep in mind that you don’t have to tackle all of these topics in one conversation! That can be overwhelming for everyone involved. The most important thing is to get these talks started. They’ll become easier as you keep having them. And eventually, you and your parents will feel more confident about handling life’s curveballs.
If you need help with your own changing finances, Everyday Money can help. We have a wealth of free resources that can help you budget, balance the books, and review your money values. If you want to have a family-friendly budgeting activity that doesn’t end in fighting, you can learn more about the BudgetingBlocks™ here.