Talking with family members about money can be tricky, but it’s an important topic that you should have with your senior mom sooner rather than later. Though money and finances feel like very private topics, there are ways that you can talk to Mom about money as easily as possible.
1. Approach the Conversation Carefully
Have the conversation at the right time. Do it when you are both well-rested and there is nothing else weighing on your minds. Have it in a place that makes both of you comfortable. Decide beforehand who all will be attending the discussion. Will there be other family members there, like siblings? Will you have a financial planner or a doctor present as well?
Once everyone is gathered together to have the conversation, talk about why money might make everyone feel uncomfortable. Getting it out in the open will make everybody feel less awkward and more at ease. If it helps, have different family members discuss why they have felt uncomfortable discussing Mom’s finances until now. Let everyone have a say. Airing out the stress in the room this way will make the rest of the conversation go more smoothly.
2. Talk About More Than Just Money
While money is an important part of Mom’s finances, you need to discuss other things that rely on or connect to Mom’s money as well, like her will, her life insurance, her investments, her bills, and any debts she may have. There are certain essential documents that Mom should have figured out already or in the near future. As her next of kin, you need to know where she keeps the originals of these documents and the best way to access them. You also need to know who has permission to access these documents, should something happen to Mom. It’s ok if Mom doesn’t want to give you permission to obtain some of the documents right now, but as a family, you should all discuss what to do in certain “what if” scenarios.
3. Explain How This Benefits Everyone
You want Mom to be as independent as possible. By letting you and other family members help her with her finances, she will get a better understanding of what she can afford, and she will feel more secure in her finances. Her housing, health care, and lifestyle options will be made easier if she lets you take some of the strain of financial planning off of her shoulders.
Helping Mom with her finances benefits you, because it takes some of your worry away as well. If something were to happen to her, you will know what financial resources she has and how to access them for her. Tell her you want to make sure that you have this conversation while she is healthy rather than wait and do it when a crisis happens and no one is thinking clearly. If you have siblings, getting everyone on the same page now can help prevent disagreements and fights later on, should something make Mom incapable of making decisions on her own.
4. Talk About Money Scammers
Discussing Mom’s finances with her is a good way to help her avoid becoming the victim of identity theft. During your talk, discuss why Mom should never share personal information over the phone or through emails or text messages with someone she doesn’t know. Talk about suspicious mail, email, texts, phone calls, and strangers who show up and try to suddenly become friends. Help Mom keep an eye on her annual credit report, and help her monitor her credit card bills and bank account statements, especially if you suspect fraud.
5. Ease Her into the Transition
Every change can be difficult. This one doesn’t have to be. To begin with, offer Mom easy ways that you can start helping her right now with her finances. Does she need help sifting through her bills when they come in the mail? Does she need some help paying the bills and keeping track of them? Does she have any online credit card accounts or bank accounts that she would rather you keep track of and pay off?
She doesn’t have to grant you access to anything and everything involving her finances. She is still independent and capable. This conversation is about helping her and making things easier on everyone. The easiest way to start this whole process might just be helping Mom organize her clutter so you all know where everything is. Refer to the National Council on Aging’s resource site EconomicCheckUp, which exists to help seniors and their loved ones plan and budget for the future.