Interview with The Money Couple: Aging Parents and Finances

by Kay Lynn

I recently had the opportunity to interview Bethany and Scott Palmer, Authors of First Comes Love, Then Comes Money: A Couple’s Guide to Financial Communication and asked them about discussing finances with parents as it’s a topic that’s been on my mind lately.

If you want more of their great advice, visit their website at The Money Couple.

The Money Couple Interview

Your tips on adult children speaking with aging parents about finances were great as my husband and I need to do so with our parents.  I was surprised to see it was geared toward the next generation.  Would you have any different tips for baby boomers?

The tips are basically the same.  If you parents are older and you have never had the conversation it needs to start right away.  Taking into account their physical issues is imperative.   Patience is the key to making this conversation work!

If these discussions haven’t happened and the parents are in their 70’s and 80’s where should the conversation start?

The conversation should start with questions.  We suggest something like “Mom, Dad, you all are in retirement; how are things going with this stage of your life?  How can we make sure your level of care is taken care of now and in the future?”

Asking question will be the key to guiding this conversation.  Remember if this is the first time keep your opinion to yourself.  Listen to what they are telling you and ask them if you can continue this line of dialog over the next couple of months.

What is the biggest obstacle to having a meaningful dialogue with parents about money and how is it best removed?

The biggest obstacle is how different generations communicate about money.  Often money was a hand off conversation with the older generations.  They never talked about money with their parents, who were growing up in the Great Depression, this will be new territory!

You don’t start with the best way to remove the money until after the conversation referred to above have been taken care of.  Then you talk about the level of care and how best the assets can be liquidated to provide that level of care.  If they are comfortable and know that the money is being used for them this conversation will be easy!

What legal documents do you recommend be considered?

Involving your family attorney or family financial planner is always imperative!   They will know what is in place and what needs to be put in place.  This is where you get over the price tag and use a professional.  It will save the family pain and money in the future.

My husband and his family traditionally don’t discuss anything related to financial planning, death, etc.  Any tips on helping them understand the importance of this process?

Using examples of what other families that have gone through is a great way to get the ball rolling.  The family that split because they could not agree on  trust or will, the family that split because they could not agree on the level of care to provide for their parents, and the family that split because the could not agree on burial expenses.

If you help the other family members see that these conversation are important to keep the family together they will participate.


Thanks Bethany and Scott for taking the time to discuss this subject with me and my readers.  I’m never done learning about personal finance!

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B00kW0rm June 21, 2011 at 7:05 am

Great interview on a very important topic!

Alex | Perfecting Dad June 21, 2011 at 11:53 am

Mmm, we’ve had the conversations with my parents, and they’re around two issues:

1) Any inheritance. Not an issue since we’re in fine financial shape and don’t rely or expect any inheritance. We’ve advised our parents to spend without regard for leaving something behind.

2) Any potential for incapacitation, or financial support for them. In this case, we’re here for them too. They have no illnesses yet, but I’ve always believed that I’m responsible for them if it comes to that.

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