Ask Money

Parents and money

Chris Farrell May 24, 2011

Question: My name is Vicki and I am 23 years old. I am married and my husband is currently in grad school. I am employed and am making enough to pay the bills and also save a little. Recently, I have begun to feel that my parents will not have enough for retirement. I have tried to talk to them, but it is difficult. So I was wondering if you had any advice on what I could be doing now, beyond funding my own retirement account and money market account, in order to save money in case I need to help support them in the future? I would really appreciate any advice you could give me. Thank you very much! Vicki, Indianapolis, IN

Answer: It is a difficult conversation to bring up with parents. . It’s good that you’ve started it. I would look at this as part of an ongoing, long-term discussion. My guess is that they will share more information with you over time.

When we think about retirement and our parents it’s natural to wonder if they have enough money. But the bigger value may be to help them think through some options and to help them gather information so that they can make an informed decision.

For example, at some point they will have to decide whether to stay in the house (assuming they are in a house), downsize to a smaller place, move to an apartment, a continuous care community, a warmer climate, and so on. There are a lot of choices and it’s a big decision. If they want to stay in their current home–the most popular choice–what kind of services are available to them when it gets harder to drive? Do they need to make some modifications in the home so that it’s safer? You can help them think through the choices.

So, for now, I would continue up the conversation, keep it low-key, and get your parents comfortable with the idea that you are a resource to rely on as they age. Eventually, they’ll bring up the money side of the equation.

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