Talking about the older adult's finances and plans

Discussing the older adult's financial situation can provide peace of mind and help with decision-making and planning.

Take advantage of opportunities to discuss finances before you have concerns. News reports, movies or something that happened to people you know are all good conversation starters:

  • "I was so sorry to hear that Moira lost her home. Do you know what happened? Do you ever worry about something like that?"

  • Did you hear that interview with the financial planner? Have you done planning or would you be interested in talking to someone?"

  • "It really helped when George's dad sat down with us to go over his accounts. Would you be open to doing something like that?"

Some people are more comfortable talking about money than others are. Don't push the older adult. Simply bringing up the topic lays the groundwork for later conversations.

If the older adult is open to it, ask about:

  • Assets, such as home, property, savings and investments

  • Income, such as pensions, retirement accounts, Social Security and other benefits

  • Insurance, such as health, home and long-term care insurance

  • Debt, such as mortgages, reverse mortgages, home equity loans, car loans or credit card bills

  • Current expenses, including housing, utilities, taxes, food, clothes, transportation, and personal, medical and care expenses

Ask what the older adult does and doesn't have in each financial category. If the older adult doesn't want to share details, ask if the amounts for each have been holding steady, decreasing or increasing.

To understand the older adult's financial plans, ask:

  • If the older adult is planning to make or expects major changes, like moving or needing paid help

  • How the older adult would handle unexpected costs for housing, health, care, transportation or other needs

  • How the older adult feels about getting help from family, friends, paid staff or community programs

  • How the older adult feels about moving to more supportive housing, like assisted living or nursing homes

  • If the older adult has made legal arrangements about financial decisions

Contact agencies to learn about the programs that support older adults in the older adult's area, including the:

  • Local, county or tribal government to find out who can answer questions about Social Security, Medicare, health insurance and other public and private benefits

  • State Medicaid office for programs offering financial support to older adults and the people who help them

  • State Health Insurance Assistance Program for benefits counseling and enrollment assistance, if the older adult receives healthcare insurance through Medicare or Medicaid

  • Local Aging and Disability Resource Center or Aging Unit, Senior Center or Area Agency on Aging, for information about other resources in the older adult's area

Community programs can help the older adult explore options, cover unexpected costs and stay within a budget.