Start the Family Retirement Conversation

If you have not yet had a serious conversation with your children about your plans and hopes for retirement, you are not alone. According to a survey by GOBankingRates, 73% of over 1,000 respondents had never addressed it with their families. Why not? Money is often a taboo subject. Twenty-two percent felt it was not their business, while over half were postponing the discussion until their parents retired, became sick or specifically asked for help.

There are reasons galore to procrastinate.

Many children do not want to raise the issue because they may appear prying or venal. Might they appear overly greedy for their inheritance? They do not want to upset the family relationship. In fact, they prefer to converse about health or politics, and according to the survey, 10% are more comfortable even discussing their own romances!

Get the ball rolling

It will depend on how close you are to your kids, but there are many ways and places to broach the subject. You can ease in gently, since money, health, aging and financial security are all sensitive topics. Consider some of these openings to introduce the subject:

  • Having seen the problems our friend Lisa (or whoever) went through, I want to be sure we never have to face such problems as we get older.
  • I want to know if you have all the information you might need in an emergency.
  • We’ve been thinking about what we would enjoy when we retire. Travel, maybe?
  • Lisa’s marriage (or divorce or graduation or new baby) have me wondering. Maybe it’s time to tell you a bit more about our own financial plans.
  • Have you been following the recent changes in tax law or health reform? Are you worried about the latest stock market volatility? They may affect us too, because… .
  • I’ve been looking into some assisted living options. It’s wonderful how much they’ve expanded their services and amenities.

You do not need to cover the entire subject at once. Choose a moment when the family is together in a relaxed, nonemotional setting. Family vacations may not necessarily be the ideal setting for such a serious talk, but with everyone gathered, you could plan to have a future meeting. You don’t have to introduce a sudden cloud during a nice day at the beach.

Covering key basics

You may want to touch on several important matters. First and foremost, you want to make your wishes clearly known so there will be no ambiguity down the road. You are more likely to preserve family harmony by avoiding any later surprises. It may also be an opportunity to prepare them for a major change, such as selling the family home. They may be reassured to learn you are comfortably making ends meet — or it might help start cutting the cord if you are struggling to support them financially. Not least, you will be setting them a good example of how to make plans about financial choices. Some matters to review are your debts, assets, insurance and any businesses you may have a stake in.

A few other possible topics may include:

  • Storing children’s belongings.
  • Whether you prefer to live at home or in an assisted living facility.
  • How to finance nursing homes or assisted living costs Medicare won’t cover.
  • What to do if a reverse mortgage comes due if you move out for over 12 months.

Give them a current list of your financial accounts and contact information for your accounts, attorney, insurance agent and financial adviser. It may save them arduous sleuthing later.

Start early

Give everyone plenty of notice, a few years ahead of your retirement, as it will affect their lives too. You may be hoping to rely on your children for some of your own caregiving. You need to let them know your expectations and find out how willing they are in case you must move assets to help pay for long-term care. You should also inform them upfront if you are reluctant to become a full-time nanny grandparent.

You may consider enlisting support from your financial planner or attorney, or other third-party advisers, for the conversation.

Reach out to Roz Carothers and her team at Triplett & Carothers to learn more.