5 Tips for Talking to Your Parents About Retirement

retirement

Many adult children eventually find themselves switching roles with their aging parents. Whereas you were once the child in need of guidance, your parents gradually seem to need your help more and more. Suddenly, you realize that you’re the one with concerns about your parents’ health and finances. If you are concerned about your parents’ retirement plans – you’re not alone. Studies show that approximately 26% of Americans ages 50 to 64 don’t have any kind of retirement savings. If your parents are facing retirement with no plan, it’s not too late to intervene. Here are some tips for opening a dialogue with them about retirement options.

1. Be Honest, But Gentle

Ambushing your parents with a bunch of questions is definitely not the best way to start a healthy conversation. Be direct, but give them time to prepare for your chat. Tell them you are worried about their retirement plans and ask when would be a good time to talk. Start by getting an idea of whether or not your parent shares your concerns. If they do, these concerns will be a good place to start a conversation. If not, get prepared to make your argument as respectfully as possible.

2. Don’t Lecture; Ask Questions

The important thing to keep in mind is that this is a two-way conversation. Lecturing your parent about what he/she should or shouldn’t be doing is not likely to lead to anything productive. Ask your parent lots of questions. Do they have any savings? What do they expect their retirement expenses to be? Do they have any debt? These questions can open a dialogue and give you a better understanding of how prepared they are for retirement. Ask to see documents if they have them and go over the information together so you both know all the details.

3. Be Realistic About Your Ability to Help

Some parents assume their adult children will be able to care for them in their later years. Be honest about your ability to help them in the future. If you are not prepared to provide housing, care, or financial assistance, now is the time to make them aware of this. Keep in mind that helping a retired parent doesn’t have to involve fully supporting them forever. Even putting some of your money aside into an emergency fund for your parent(s) could be quite helpful.

4. Let Them Make Their Own Choices

Ultimately, the retirement choices your parents make are theirs and theirs alone. As much as you may want to intervene and do what you think is best, you have to respect the fact that these decisions are theirs to make. You can provide them with as much information as you possibly can to help them make an informed decision about their financial future, but you cannot dictate their choices. Be patient and understanding.

5. Keep the Conversation Going

Talking to your parents about their retirement plans is not a once and done deal. This is likely a lifelong conversation that you will need to have repeatedly as your parents get older and their financial circumstances continually change. Creating an open dialogue will make both of you feel more comfortable voicing your concerns when they come up over the years. Check in with your parents every once in a while to ensure that they are still on track with their retirement goals.

Where your parents are at financially when they retire is the result of decades worth of financial decisions and life choices. There is no way for you to turn back the clock and reverse everything for them. However, starting a dialogue now about money and retirement can help your parents prepare for life in their golden years.

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