Finance: Three Conversations to Have With Aging Parents

By Jason Wheeler

One of life’s greatest rewards and greatest struggles is caring for aging parents.  It’s tough to emotionally deal with your parents aging and showing signs of physical weakness. It’s even tougher when it is cognitive weakness. These are the same folks that gave us our strength and had the strength to hold us up when we were weak. As people age, life gets busy and none of us spend as much time with our parents as we wish we could.

But life must go on. We have bills to pay, work that must be completed, and many people have children (some not so young anymore) they are actively caring for.

This is what we hear from our 75+ age clients in chronological order:

“Thank you for taking care of this for me. You are always so professional and I know that I can count on the Pathfinder team.”

“I’m so glad that I have you in my life.  I don’t know how I would manage all of life’s financial stuff without you and your team.”

“You know us better than our own kids.  You are like family to us.”

This last line isn’t BS. It is real. We hear it often. While you are busy working and living your lives, your parents are starting to require more assistance with their financial lives. You probably know this already, but I want to stress that you need to be involved at some level. Too many families fall out of favor with each other as parents begin to lose their health or pass away. Financial mistakes happen more often and when they do, they are usually big mistakes.

I have a solution for you on the financial front. I hope you will have the courage to reach out to your parents and have three tough conversations. By the way, I always encourage our older clients to talk to their children too. The 800 pound gorilla is very much alive and well, right there in the room.

These three conversations are simple to begin but will require patience, openness, and trust to make a lasting difference.

Conversation One:

Do you have a trusted relationship with someone that helps you with your future financial planning? If so, then you should ask if you can meet them and get an overview of their approach to helping retirees in late retirement years. Let your gut check after a conversation with this person tell you whether or not you need to get more deeply involved. If they don’t, you need to consider helping them find one. This isn’t about finding an investment advisor, tax preparer or insurance agent. It’s about finding someone that practices financial planning. You need to find someone that can easily articulate estate, tax, investment, insurance, and cash flow issues with you. You need someone that can provide specific examples and experience helping families through later stages of life. You need someone that is a planner.

Conversation Two:

Is there anything that I need to know about if something unexpected happens with your physical or mental health? This should lead to a conversation about estate plans and who are the personal representatives if someone passes away or is incapacitated in some way. It should lead to a discussion about long term care planning and whether they have insurance in place, where they would prefer to be if needed, and their expectations of their children. There should be a discussion about managing the bills, handling the investment decisions, and what financial resources and obligations they have. This is also a good time to ask about life insurance, safe deposit boxes, and other important information that isn’t normally discussed.

Conversation Three:

What are your expectations of me? This is straight forward and is a tougher conversation to tackle. It can certainly stir some emotions if the expectations are not realistic. However, without the conversation, those expectations still exist. At least you are now able to understand them and address them. More often than not, most parents understand where their children are in life. They know about work and family obligations. They know what you are going through because they have already been there. The difference now is that you are a different generation and you want to plan and discuss. There are lots of options that did not exist 20 years ago when they were dealing with their parents.

In summary, you have a much better opportunity to deal with balancing a career and caregiving if you have these conversations prior to becoming a caregiver. You will never regret having proactively planned. I hear so often from our older clients that it is the things that we don’t do that we regret, not the things that we did.

Jason Wheeler is currently the CEO and a Wealth Consultant atPathfinder Wealth Consulting. Pathfinder specializes in comprehensive financial, estate and tax planning services, investment management, and risk management (insurance). Jason Wheeler offers securities and advisory services through Commonwealth Financial Network®. Member FINRA, SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser. To learn more about Pathfinder Wealth Consulting, visit Jason can be reached at or 910-793-0616.

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