How do you talk to your parents about their finances?

Chris Farrell always make me think in new, practical ways about the economy. Today he shared a New York Times post about debt and parents that should have many of us wringing our hands and asking: How do you talk frankly with your elderly parents about their finances and solvency?


Talk about awkward.

Your parents are supposed to be the well spring of wisdom on all things financial. They had the money, they taught you how important it was to save, work hard and invest. Why would you even need to talk to them about their finances into their 70s and 80s?

Turns out that’s pretty naive.

The Times piece features a story of a woman who thought her 86-year-old father was financially secure only to discover he’d run up a $15,000 credit card debt.

It offers links to reports showing a jump in the numbers of senior citizens filing for bankruptcy and that seniors are spending 43 percent to 53 percent of their monthly income paying credit card debt.

We’ve written some on MinnEcon about how to ask for help in this recession — something many of our friends and neighbors have had to deal with for the first time.

We’ve also tried to explore the question of navigating that awkward moment when your friends realize your broke or unemployed.

But your parents? How do you have that discussion? MinnEcon’s all about using the expertise of our audience to try and help us all better understand the economy.

If anyone’s done it or tried, please post something below or contact us directly at MinnEcon.

  • John O.

    My Dad is in his early 80’s and Mom in her late 70’s. Both are in good physical health for their age and still live in the house they built in 1970. Both are still very, VERY sharp with respect to their personal finances and all is in order.

    I’ve had that discussion with them since I am their only child, and you are correct: it is not easy.

    The “Great Unknown” for all three of us is to what extent one or both will eventually need assisted living services and/or nursing home care. I know from talking to friends who have “been there” that there is a high probability that most (or all) of their assets could *easily* be drained within a short period of time, depending on a number of factors.

    I don’t relish the thought of having to struggle with the stress of wanting them to have the best care possible while, at the same time, having to be THE watchdog over their finances.