How adult children can help their parents with finances
Advice abounds online for parents who are helping their adult children financially—“Kick ’em out!” Dr. Phil says. There’s considerably less information about the opposite scenario, which is just as common and natural—how, as an older adult, to ask your adult children to help with your finances.
You’ll need to balance several factors. First, you’re going to have to give up some of your autonomy in order to gain a broader sense of balance and freedom, and that can take quite an emotional toll even if it makes good sense. Second, you also don’t want to jeopardize your relationship with your children by asking too much or broaching the subject in the wrong way.
Make boundaries your top priority
Setting boundaries is key, as is understanding your child’s mindset. “Finances tend to be one of the trickiest topics because people do have traditional ideas about what you should and shouldn’t talk about,” says Amy Goyer, a caregiving expert at AARP, quoted in The New York Times. Although many adult children avoid starting these conversations because they don’t want to appear intrusive, scheduling a family meeting to talk about money can help dissolve communication barriers. Bringing in other trusted family members or professionals to the meeting can also help to ensure that the tone of the discussion is positive, points out the Times article.
Sometimes circumstances require asking your children if you can move in with them. “Having good visits with your children doesn’t necessarily promise a good co-living arrangement,” an expert cautioned AARP, which offers “rules of the road” for making such a request, including working out financial, privacy, and chore- and schedule-balance arrangements.
Source outside help
Another AARP article offers five tips for people thinking about asking their adult children for financial help:
1. Be careful when choosing which child, or children, to ask for help. “Avoid giving this responsibility to any child who has his [or her] own money problems or is struggling with addiction,” one expert told AARP. Instead, you might consider asking another close relative or trusted friend for help, or possibly even a professional fiduciary.
2. Make the first move by asking to begin a conversation. “When it’s time to talk, have the conversation face to face, with financial documents in hand,” AARP advises. And consider giving your child advance warning, rather than springing the discussion on her or him out of the blue (for instance, during the holidays). When you’ve agreed on something, put it in writing.
3. Be blunt and exhaustive. When you need to enlist the help of someone you trust, you won’t help either yourself or him or her by keeping details close to your chest. Be specific about your income sources, the professionals you’ve hired to help, and your bills, insurance costs, taxes, medical and caregiver expenses, and any other estate-related issues.
4. Divide the labor realistically. When you sit down to talk, make sure it’s crystal clear who will be doing what. “If you’re going to keep handling some financial tasks yourself, describe what you do, so a child can quickly step in if necessary,” AARP notes.
5. Protect yourself. No one wants things to go sour, but it’s better to overprepare. “Have a child share power of attorney with a third party such as a professional fiduciary,” one expert told AARP. “This creates a system of checks and balances.”
Consider using technological aids
Another way to frame the initial conversation, and something that could continue to guide it in a fruitful direction, is to ask your adult child to help you identify current technologies that could be employed to help relieve some of the burdens you’re facing. “Members of the younger generation are often up to date on new technologies and personal finance trends,” notes a Bankrate article. “Use this to your advantage. Your child might be able to find ways to help you save on various items, from insurance and car loans to cell phone plans and monthly utilities.”
Whether you need direct financial support or just help managing on-time bill paying, both you and your adult child will want to be sure to take all the important issues into account, and to ensure that everyone is fully informed. If either of you has questions about how and when you should ask for help with your finances, visit stepupfinances.com for a free e-book and other helpful resources for navigating managing senior finances.