April 15th: The Perfect Time to Start Conversations About Money with Aging Parents

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For many Boomers bringing up the subject of finances with their aging parents seems like a daunting task. Eldercare expert Esther Koch recommends using Uncle Sam as the ice breaker.

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The April 15th tax deadline provides a perfect entrée for otherwise reticent Boomers to begin financial conversations with their aging parents

There is no time like the present to begin conversations about money with aging parents. No matter how difficult it may be to discuss finances, not discussing them will only make matters worse. "The April 15th tax deadline provides a perfect entrée for otherwise reticent Boomers to begin financial conversations with their aging parents," says eldercare advisor Esther Koch.

"Your parents' tax return is an excellent source of financial information," says Koch who was formerly a tax professional with PricewaterhouseCoopers. It provides current taxable income and expenses and specifically identifies the assets and liabilities from which they were generated. From here the conversation can broaden into discussing other sources of current income and expense, then move into desires and expectations for the future, and ultimately to what legal documents need to be in place.

"Discussing money with aging parents can seem like a daunting task so having a way to bring up the subject can be of great help," emphasizes Koch. But how things are said is also important. Koch provides the following additional hints on how to make these conversations successful:

  • Put yourself in your parents' shoes. How would you like it if they told you what to do? Or, more pointedly, how would you feel if your children told you what to do?
  • Chose a non-threatening moment to bring up the subject. That may or may not be a holiday in your family. Make sure to not ruin a holiday to introduce or belabor the topic of money.
  • Use 'I' statements rather than 'You' statements. 'I' statements are much less threatening.
  • Be compassionate and sensitive to the psychological implications of these conversations; the reality of aging, one's own mortality, and the loss of independence and control. Remember too that this generation is not as open about financial matters.
  • The tone of the conversation should be one of respect; respect for your parents and the decisions they make. Make sure they know that you will respect their wishes.
  • Don't expect this to be a one-time conversation. If your first approach doesn't seem to work, it may just need to be heard more to be assimilated. But, if one approach clearly doesn't work, try a different one next time.

Koch concludes, "Just don't give up on discussing the subject of money. Sooner or later, your parents will need your help."

About Esther Koch
Esther Koch is a gerontologist and eldercare advisor. She is also a CPA and former PricewaterhouseCoopers tax professional. Her firm, Encore Management, provides personal and corporate advisory services and seminars that assist Boomers with the range of issues associated with caring for an aging parent and their own aging. Her media interviews and articles have appeared on television, radio and in print. For more eldercare tips and information about Esther Koch and Encore Management visit http://www.encoremgmt.com.

Terri Ghio
Encore Management


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