Making “The Talk” with Your Children (about Finances) Easier

You’re getting close to retirement age, you’ve met with your financial advisor, and you have a strategy in place for funding the next thirty years of your life. All you have to do is wait for the magic date! Actually, there is one more thing you need to do before you start spending down your investment accounts – talk to your children about your finances.

While the thought of this version of “the talk” may seem as awkward as the one you had with your teenagers, it’s even more important to initiate it, because it’s for your own benefit, as well as your children’s. You can make it clear to them who you want to handle your finances when you can no longer do it yourself. (This may be especially important if your choice is not your oldest child or an otherwise obvious one.) Making your plans and expectations clear now will prevent worries (yours and theirs) during future health crises and other stressful times; also, your children will know what you want them to do and where to find the information they need to do it. Explaining what your retirement income and resources will be will allay concerns your children may have. Also, detailing how much you expect to leave behind and how you plan to divide it among your heirs will quell speculation and minimize or eliminate fighting over your estate.

Here are some tips that will help you conduct a stress-free family meeting:

1. Plan the discussion when everyone you want involved can be present; set up a conference call with anyone who can’t attend.
2. Decide what you want to share; write an agenda, if it will help you organize your thoughts.
3. Show your children your respect by listening to their concerns and answering their questions. (Entertaining their suggestions is optional.)
4. If you have concerns about leaving anything to a particular family member, address it so there are no surprises for anyone down the road.
5. Be clear about your current plans – and that they can change. Assure them that you’ll notify them of any major modifications to the plan.
6. If you are concerned that this meeting will not go well with one or more of your family members, ask a financial therapist, financial advisor, or other professional to help facilitate the discussion.

Sharing the details of your financial life with your children is not relinquishing control over it. You’ll merely be acknowledging that a time may come when you will need their help, and you want to make it as easy on them as you can. If you don’t give them this information, you may be forcing them to someday make decisions based on what they think you would want. That scenario will be more stressful for them, and their decisions will be less likely to concur with your wishes. Overcome the potential awkwardness and show your children that you trust them, not only with this most personal of information, but with your future.