Caring for aging parents can be one of life’s greatest rewards and greatest struggles. Emotionally, it’s difficult to deal with parents aging and showing signs of physical weakness – and even tougher to experience cognitive deterioration. These are the same folks who gave us our strength and had the strength to hold us up when we were weak.
Paradoxically, at the same time that our parents are aging and needing more of our support, our own lives are getting busier and our own families are counting on us to be strong. Many of us simply can’t afford to 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 for many of us, children (some not so young anymore) for which to care.
In chronological order, the following sequence of statements is typical from our clients of 75+ years of age.
- “Thank you for taking care of this for me. You are always so professional and I’m relieved 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.”
I’m not making this up. In fact, we hear it often. While a new generation of families is busy working and living their day-to-day lives, the retired parents are beginning to require more assistance with their financial lives. You probably know this already, but I want to stress that if you are in this situation, it is a good idea for you to be involved at some level. Too many families fall out of favor with each other when parents begin to lose their health or pass away. Without some involvement, financial mistakes are more likely; and when they do occur, 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. But with a few simple conversation topics, that gorilla will simply disappear.
These three conversations can be difficult to begin and will require patience, openness and trust – but in the long run, they will make a positive and lasting difference in the lives of everyone involved.
Do you have a trusted relationship with someone who helps you with your future financial planning? If the answer is “YES,” then ask if you can meet him to gain a better understanding of his approach to helping retirees in late retirement years. After your conversation with your parent’s financial planner, check your gut to determine whether or not you need to get more deeply involved. If your parents don’t have a relationship with a good financial planning professional, please consider helping them find one. This isn’t about finding an investment advisor, tax preparer or insurance agent. It’s about finding someone who practices financial planning. You need to find someone who can easily articulate estate, tax, investment, insurance and cash flow issues with you. You need someone who can provide specific examples and has experience helping families through later stages of life. Find someone who is an expert planner.
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 that includes:
- Estate plans and who are the personal representatives if someone passes away or is incapacitated in some way
- Long-term care planning and whether they have insurance in place
- Assisted living preferences if necessary and applicable
- Managing bills
- Handling investment decisions
- Financial resources and obligations
- Life insurance, safe deposit boxes, and other important information that isn’t normally discussed
What are your expectations of me? This straightforward conversation is a tough one to tackle. It can certainly stir some emotions if parental expectations are not realistic. However, without the conversation, unknown expectations will surely end in disappointment. Once there’s an awareness of expectations, discovering ways to address them becomes possible. More often than not, parents understand that their children are occupied living their own lives. They know about work and family obligations. They know what their kids are going through because they have already been there. The key is to seize the opportunity to discuss, learn and plan ahead. 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 didn’t do that we regret, not the things that we did.
If you would like some more insight or guidance on how you can help to navigate your parents’ financial path, or your own, give me a call or shoot me an email.
Jason Wheeler is currently the CEO and a Wealth Consultant at Pathfinder Wealth Consulting. Pathfinder specializes in comprehensive financial, estate and tax planning services, investment management, and risk management (insurance) for business owners and successful executives. 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 www.pathfinderwc.com. Jason can be reached at [email protected] or 910-793-0616.