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How to talk to your parents about money?
Old 12-30-2010, 08:24 AM   #1
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How to talk to your parents about money?

I am 43 and both my parents are 63 and recently retired. Dad worked as a heavy equipment operator his whole life and he has two pensions from the two unions he worked for. He also took social security "early" last year when eligible.

Mom was a part-time subtitute teacher her whole life. Never earned much money but does draw a small pension from the teachers union. She also began taking social security last year when eligible.

They have no debts and have (I think) modest assets in a 401k. Home and a small farm are paid for but not worth a lot as they live in rural Ohio.

Neither one knows much about money or investments but have lived fine their whole life without ever really being in trouble financially.

They have never asked me for financial advice and therefore I have never given them any. However, now that neither is working I am beginning to get subtle hits that they might be struggling a bit more than they expected. In particular my dad is frustrated with my mom because they UPS truck stops at the house 3-4 days per week with some more "junk" she has purchased online. I think she is mostly bored and gets some sort of "retail therapy" from this behavior. I don't feel like it is my place to ask her why she is spending money this stuff (she gives a lot of it to me and my two sisters).

I feel like I could possibly help them with various financial decisions that they will be facing in the coming years but they haven't come out and asked for it yet. Is there a good way to bring the topic up in a way that let's them know I am there to help without looking like I am nosing my way into their business?

Should I just ignore the topic until they ask for help? (I am worried they are too proud to ever ask for the help and it will eventually be too late)
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Old 12-30-2010, 08:29 AM   #2
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Give her a copy of "Your Money or Your Life".

Explain to her about inflation (affect on nominal pensions)... what happens to the pensions and half the SS when one of them dies. The survivor will need savings to fill in the gap. Do this by describing the issues you are considering for yourself when you retire... not as direct advice you parents.
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Old 12-30-2010, 10:13 AM   #3
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skyvue,

Unfortunately, I do not have any sage advice for you; but, I am very interested to know how you handle this. Please keep us posted if you decide to broach this subject with your parents.
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Old 12-30-2010, 10:23 AM   #4
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I would not say anything. It is possible that the disagreement over the many UPS truck deliveries is more of a relationship issue than a financial one.

I know that even though my financial situation is excellent, I would be livid if a spouse did that. (Luckily, I have no spouse and do not intend to acquire another one, so that issue can remain neutral for me).
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Old 12-30-2010, 10:32 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by skyvue View Post
I am 43 and both my parents are 63 and recently retired. Dad worked as a heavy equipment operator his whole life and he has two pensions from the two unions he worked for. He also took social security "early" last year when eligible.

Mom was a part-time subtitute teacher her whole life. Never earned much money but does draw a small pension from the teachers union. She also began taking social security last year when eligible.

They have no debts and have (I think) modest assets in a 401k. Home and a small farm are paid for but not worth a lot as they live in rural Ohio.

Neither one knows much about money or investments but have lived fine their whole life without ever really being in trouble financially.

They have never asked me for financial advice and therefore I have never given them any. However, now that neither is working I am beginning to get subtle hits that they might be struggling a bit more than they expected. In particular my dad is frustrated with my mom because they UPS truck stops at the house 3-4 days per week with some more "junk" she has purchased online. I think she is mostly bored and gets some sort of "retail therapy" from this behavior. I don't feel like it is my place to ask her why she is spending money this stuff (she gives a lot of it to me and my two sisters).

I feel like I could possibly help them with various financial decisions that they will be facing in the coming years but they haven't come out and asked for it yet. Is there a good way to bring the topic up in a way that let's them know I am there to help without looking like I am nosing my way into their business?

Should I just ignore the topic until they ask for help? (I am worried they are too proud to ever ask for the help and it will eventually be too late)
Standard advice is MYOB, but from my standpoint as the father of adult children, I think that is often not best. We had a very close family, but since they are grown and married we do not seem to have the free flow of information that we always had. I never hid any financial information from my kids, and I would be happy to share my information now so that they would be familiar with it, and also so that they could offer advice from their experiences. But at this point our communication on many things, including this, is the standard and often painful US/Anglo "don't ask don't tell". So one of my projects for the New Year is to try to improve this.

IMO there are much better ways, and if you can take steps to get information flowing it will be better for everyone. You never know that a stroke or other abrupt health change will not come along and throw a wrench into their lives, so any communication base establised how should really help both now and later. The UPS truck could be a problem, and it could grow. I would pick the parent that you can most esily talk to, and talk.

Good luck to you all!

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Old 12-30-2010, 10:32 AM   #6
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I would not say anything. It is possible that the disagreement over the many UPS truck deliveries is more of a relationship issue than a financial one.

I know that even though my financial situation is excellent, I would be livid if a spouse did that. (Luckily, I have no spouse and do not intend to acquire another one, so that issue can remain neutral for me).
Your correct in that it is mostly a relationship issue. They seem to be fighting and getting along worse now that my dad is home all day and they are literally around each other all day. Over the break, each one of them complained to me about the other when we were alone for a bit. I felt like Dr. Phil!

However, the shopping habit has drawn comments from my dad such as "We can't afford to waste money on things like this anymore!". If my mom is just using her "spending money" on this then I really wouldn't be concerned but I fear she is using credit cards and perhaps not paying the whole bill each month and beginning to accure "debt". My dad would not know if this were happening (I don't believe) because my mom has always handled the finances and essentially gave him an allowance each week and paid all the bills.

Again, my concern is I want to try to offer advice and help before it potentially gets out of control. On the other hand I could be concerned about nothing as I really have little knowledge of their cash flow position on a monthly basis.
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Old 12-30-2010, 11:04 AM   #7
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I don't feel like it is my place to ask her why she is spending money this stuff (she gives a lot of it to me and my two sisters).
I feel like I could possibly help them with various financial decisions that they will be facing in the coming years but they haven't come out and asked for it yet. Is there a good way to bring the topic up in a way that let's them know I am there to help without looking like I am nosing my way into their business?
Should I just ignore the topic until they ask for help? (I am worried they are too proud to ever ask for the help and it will eventually be too late)
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Your correct in that it is mostly a relationship issue. They seem to be fighting and getting along worse now that my dad is home all day and they are literally around each other all day. Over the break, each one of them complained to me about the other when we were alone for a bit. I felt like Dr. Phil!
However, the shopping habit has drawn comments from my dad such as "We can't afford to waste money on things like this anymore!".
On the other hand I could be concerned about nothing as I really have little knowledge of their cash flow position on a monthly basis.
"Put your hands in the air and back away slowly".

Nobody's asked, and even worse other family members may feel as if you're meddling for control.

If these relationship issues are the biggest problems your parents have in their lives then they're not really in need of your assistance. They'll figure it out, although it's possible that they'll always remind you of the Bickersons.

Unless your dad has actually run the finances, it doesn't sound as if he really knows whether or not they can "afford" her purchases. He may be just observing the influx of material possessions and finding one more aspect of the relationship to comment on.

If you feel that you can't use the stuff she's giving you then you could ask her to stop. However that may be her way of saying "I love you", and she might misinterpret your request along those lines.

There's also the possibility that, in their eyes, you have zero credibility in the area of relationships or money. My FIL is nearly 77 years old and he still dismissively refers to people in their 50s as "those kids". I've learned that any financial discussion in his presence just makes him worry that the gorilla who's sleeping with his daughter will end up losing everything and leave his only granddaughter homeless...
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Old 12-30-2010, 11:17 AM   #8
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Well,......In my family we would have no trouble at all talking about this. Or anything else for that matter! Not that we are real close, just that is the way it is......But, it would probably be done this way: Dad starts saying something about Mom's buying habit.....I chime in with, "Yeah, you have to be careful with that...can get addictive.....and credit cards, forget it....My friend started charging up a storm, and now pays huge interest charges each month! and is having a hard time paying all her bills now!" Whether it was true or not......I'd throw that in, to get Mom thinking, and Dad talking.

At the other side......If I had a good investment, or place to put money, I would just tell them about it and ask them if they were interested in learning about it, and making some money, or at least putting it somewhere safe......

They are your parents.......I don't see any downside of trying to help them here.....How angry can they get?
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Old 12-30-2010, 11:27 AM   #9
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You are in a difficult situation because if you stand back and do nothing and there is an issue one day the whole mess could end up in your lap to resolve. However I think it is safe to assume they think you know crap about finance given your age compared to their experience.

Rather than sit them down at the kitchen table and give them a lecture could you in a casual way ask your dad if everything is ok because of the comments you have overheard about his concern re your mothers shopping. I would provide a listening post rather than a lecturing post and see what comes of it.
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Old 12-30-2010, 11:35 AM   #10
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You are in a difficult situation because if you stand back and do nothing and there is an issue one day the whole mess could end up in your lap to resolve. However I think it is safe to assume they think you know crap about finance given your age compared to their experience.

Rather than sit them down at the kitchen table and give them a lecture could you in a casual way ask your dad if everything is ok because of the comments you have overheard about his concern re your mothers shopping. I would provide a listening post rather than a lecturing post and see what comes of it.
I really do not think it is a case of them believing I don't know what I am talking about when it comes to personal finance. They know very well my ER goals and that it is a hobby of mine to take personal finance very serious. They have in the past asked for input on some things such as what mutual funds to invest in inside their 401k.

If anything they view my as being a bit too obsessed over the whole topic and want me to ease up a bit. Part of me thinks they might just be embarrassed by how little they have actually save over the years or embarrassed that they are struggling a bit in retirement. Their situation is much different from mine though as they have 3 pensions to fall back on and never did plan on saving for their own retirement. I have never really seen any evidence that they even have a budget.
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Old 12-30-2010, 11:36 AM   #11
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Your correct in that it is mostly a relationship issue. They seem to be fighting and getting along worse now that my dad is home all day and they are literally around each other all day. Over the break, each one of them complained to me about the other when we were alone for a bit. I felt like Dr. Phil!
Wow. Financial issues may be just one thing they choose to pick a fight on. I know a man in his 70s who still drags himself to work at a megacorp. He said it took him out of the house, away from his wife. It's sad!

Quote:
However, the shopping habit has drawn comments from my dad such as "We can't afford to waste money on things like this anymore!". If my mom is just using her "spending money" on this then I really wouldn't be concerned but I fear she is using credit cards and perhaps not paying the whole bill each month and beginning to accure "debt". My dad would not know if this were happening (I don't believe) because my mom has always handled the finances and essentially gave him an allowance each week and paid all the bills.

Again, my concern is I want to try to offer advice and help before it potentially gets out of control. On the other hand I could be concerned about nothing as I really have little knowledge of their cash flow position on a monthly basis.
I would approach your mom first to see if they really have a cash flow problem. Even if they do not, they may in the future if her spending escalates.

Family problems like this are tough. Damned if you do, and also if you don't get involved. Since both of your parents have asked you to lend a sympathetic ear, you are in the position to help out a bit, hopefully.
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Old 12-30-2010, 11:48 AM   #12
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One person's idea of an unnecessary expense that we can't afford can be another person's idea of a budgeted for indulgence. When my DH buys certain things I think they are wasteful. I'm sure he feels the same about some of my purchases. The way we handle it is that we each budget a certain amount of spending money for each of us and neither one can say boo about it. We could throw it out the window if we wanted (of course, the corollary is that we don't go above that amount without having a discussion).

It seems to me you don't really know whether there is a serious issue here or not. It could be that your father feels the UPS deliveries are unnecessary purchases (and he may be right) while your mom (who pays the bills) knows that the amount spent is well within what they can afford.

I am also leery about "kids" who assume that parents are decrepit and know nothing about money particularly parents who have successfullly navigated their way to retirement and a paid off house. I'm not saying that the OP feels that way, just that as a parent I might get my back up for my kid to start acting like he/she knew more about my finances than I do.

On the other hand, the dad has made comments about not being able to afford things. The problem is you don't really know if that is just a shorthand way of him saying he wouldn't make the purchases (even though they really can afford them) or if he is really pointing to a serious problem. I think the next time he brought it up (or if the mom brought it up) I would say something like "Dad, do you think there is really a serious problem here? Is there anything I can help with?"
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Old 12-30-2010, 11:53 AM   #13
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Good luck. At least they have steady income and aren't spending down their nest egg on the UPS deliveries. If you decide to talk to them about their finances, maybe you can start by opening up with concrete details about your own finances and planning for retirement and asking for their advice on your projectioons. That way the conversation won't be one-sided and it might not seem so much to them that you are fishing for info about a future inheritance (it's quite obvious to us that you are NOT fishing for that info, but your parents might wonder if that's what you're interested in).
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Old 12-30-2010, 11:56 AM   #14
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Katsmeow makes a good point:

"I am also leery about "kids" who assume that parents are decrepit and know nothing about money particularly parents who have successfullly navigated their way to retirement and a paid off house. I'm not saying that the OP feels that way, just that as a parent I might get my back up for my kid to start acting like he/she knew more about my finances than I do."



A friend of mine has a mother who drinks, stays up all night and orders from HSN or QVC. Needless to say, the margharita mixer she ordered is now being used by the grandkids to make milk shakes...and she keeps ordering away.

As long as your parents aren't going broke, I'd MYOB. This may (in her mind) be the only "fun" she has in life now. At least she's not drinking the night away like my friend's mom.
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Old 12-30-2010, 12:08 PM   #15
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A friend of mine has a mother who drinks, stays up all night and orders from HSN or QVC. Needless to say, the margharita mixer she ordered is now being used by the grandkids to make milk shakes...and she keeps ordering away.

As long as your parents aren't going broke, I'd MYOB. This may (in her mind) be the only "fun" she has in life now. At least she's not drinking the night away like my friend's mom.
I had a friend whose MIL lived with them. She did not drink, but stayed up all night ordering from these awful TV channels. She did not contribute anything to the household expenses, so was able to spend all her SS on these orders, and they simply indulged her. The goods overflowed her room, and then the garage, and then a rented storage place.

When she died, they had a hell of a garage sales, and the traffic nearly blocked up the neighborhood. All the goods were still in original packing, unused. Selling for a fraction of the original prices, they still recovered a few grands. Holy cow!
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Old 12-30-2010, 12:14 PM   #16
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I had a friend whose MIL lived with them. She did not drink, but stayed up all night ordering from these awful TV channels. She did not contribute anything to the household expenses, so was able to spend all her SS on these orders, and they simply indulged her. The goods overflowed her room, and then the garage, and then a rented storage place.

When she died, they had a hell of a garage sales, and the traffic nearly blocked up the neighborhood. All the goods were still in original packing, unused. Selling for a fraction of the original prices, they still recovered a few grands. Holy cow!
Sounds like an episode of "Hoarders" on A&E! This would be my mom but my dad throws stuff away when she isn't paying attention so there is no significant amount of accumulation going on.
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Old 12-30-2010, 12:17 PM   #17
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...my dad throws stuff away when she isn't paying attention so there is no significant amount of accumulation going on.
NO NO NO... He needs to learn how to sell on eBay.

You mentioned that he depends on her for the allowance (nicest husband I ever heard). This should be the way he supplements that allowance. Your mom keeps buying, your dad keeps selling. Heh heh heh... Everybody wins. Or is it?
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Old 12-31-2010, 12:04 AM   #18
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Maybe have a talk with Mom (because she manages the money) about future plans. Do they have long term care insurance? A will, POAs? This kind of planning could open the discussions. It is probably (though not certain) that a time will come when the children will have to manage the finances. My MIL is in a senior home and fading. Her son & my wife (with help from SIL (CPA) and I) watch the finances. Half her income is from SS & pension and half from investments. I do her taxes. We have a general idea about inflows and outflows. Maybe all you want to know is the the cash flow is OK. Commonly its the dad but in your case its mom, if that spouse fails first how will the other manage? You might have a discussion with mom; 'hey mom, if you have medical issues, how will dad manage?'
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Old 12-31-2010, 02:18 AM   #19
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I'm 63 and DH is 67; we have no problem discussing financials with our three sons. We feel they have a need to know in case something happens. It was the same way with my parents; their finances were an open book to my brother and me. I suppose not everyone feels that way though. I would definitely talk to your parents. The worst they can do is tell you to myob. Good luck!
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Old 12-31-2010, 08:29 AM   #20
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I never knew anything about my parents finances until about 3 years ago when my mother turned 90. She has had to move from a home to independent living to assisted living in these past 3 years.

My father passed away about 15 years ago and before he died told me what their estate was worth.

My mother was always frugal so we never worried too much about excess spending. Three years ago the just came to us and told us that she needed help with her finances and basically dumped everything on us at once. When we got involved her memory of thing was much worse than we realized and had to piece thing together. The biggest problem was that she had let her homeowners/auto insurance lapse.

She made some good financial decisions including a LTC policy which is now paying for the assisted living.

After going through what I had to with my mom, I still don't know what I could have done differently.
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