Most people say it's important to talk about finances but put off actually having those conversations with family or others close to them. Discussing finances early can increase peace of mind, as you understand needs, options and plans.
Before you talk with the older adult, ask yourself:
Set a small goal for your first conversation. For example, your goal could be to learn about the older adult's bank and credit card accounts, or to find out if the older adult has a financial advisor. Good conversation starters include financial-related facts, friends' or family members' experiences, or news stories. For example:
Be honest about your reasons for wanting to discuss financial issues with the older adult. Acknowledge that the older adult might see the situation differently. During the conversation, focus on understanding the older adult's point of view. Don't push for decisions or actions right away. Don't try to cover too much in your first discussion. Try to end on a positive note. If you can, agree on next steps with the older adult, like having another conversation or going over documents together.
Sometimes discussions about finances can bring up strong emotions. Older adults might be intimidated by financial professionals, confused by Medicaid or Medicare, or embarrassed to admit they've been a victim of fraud or other financial exploitation. Well-meaning questions might sound like you're prying or questioning older adults' abilities.
During difficult discussions, do your best to calmly and clearly share your thoughts, using phrases like, "I am concerned" or "My feelings are." Focus on what you can agree on and how you can work together on financial tasks. Listen carefully to what the older adult says. Remember that what you're talking about probably affects the older adult's life more than yours.
You and the older adult might have different ways of speaking or thinking about finances.
Financial discussions can be difficult when:
If the older adult has a negative reaction, it can help to ask why. Try to understand the older adult's point of view. Focus on the older adult's wishes and goals. If the older adult doesn't want to discuss it, don't push. You might need to agree to disagree on some things. It's usually better to drop the subject and discuss it again later. If you understand why the last conversation was difficult, you might be able to find a different way to approach the topic next time.
Your follow-up conversations can help you and the older adult work together on financial tasks. Follow-up conversations can be good opportunities to:
If you and the older adult agree on next steps during your first conversation, it can be easy to start the next discussion. For example: "Have you thought about meeting with a financial advisor?" or "I printed a financial power of attorney form for you to look over." If the first conversation didn't end with clear plans or on a positive note, there are other ways to start a follow-up discussion. You might want to:
Encourage the older adult to share thoughts and opinions by asking more open-ended questions, like "Are any financial tasks difficult or unpleasant for you?" If you ask lots of "leading" questions - like "Wouldn't you feel better if I took over paying bills?" - it can seem like you're just trying to get the older adult to go along with what you want.
Try to have smaller, more frequent conversations, rather than a few big ones. That gives you both time to consider options before you discuss financial issues again.
Avoid launching into a conversation about finances every time you talk with the older adult. Try to balance the "serious" talk with time spent simply enjoying each other's company.
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