How to Talk About Money with Your Aging Parents

Adult daughter talking to mother on couch

Please note the publish date of this blog. Financial information, market conditions, and other data mentioned in this post may no longer be accurate or relevant.

Talking about finances and money with your parents can be uncomfortable. For years, they were likely the ones teaching you how to understand, save, and spend your money. It can feel awkward or strange to understand that those roles are reversing. But money conversations with your aging parents are as critical as addressing their changing healthcare needs, and they shouldn’t be avoided no matter how difficult it may seem to approach the subject.

Each person or couple will inevitably have a different financial situation. It’s essential to be receptive and sensitive to the unique financial challenges older adults face, especially because they might consider money to be a private topic. Here are some general best practices to follow if (and when) it’s time to have an open and productive dialogue with your aging parents about their money.

Recognize the Need for a Money Conversation

You cannot guarantee that your parents will reach out to you or your siblings if they need help financially. They may not fully recognize that they’re having problems at all, or they might be embarrassed or unwilling to admit they can’t keep perspective on that part of their life anymore. Relinquishing financial responsibilities can feel a lot like losing autonomy, so try to be patient with wherever your parents are in the process.

However, to avoid a potential financial catastrophe, there are some red flags to be aware of that might indicate the need for deliberate money discussions:

  • They’ve become disorganized with other aspects of their personal life. Pay attention when you’re visiting your parents: is the laundry piling up? Is their once-clean home becoming unruly? Is the yard overgrown? Have they stopped cooking for themselves? This may be an indication that they are losing their ability to perform all the tasks needed for maintaining a household.
  • They have little reminders everywhere on how to do basic tasks. Most people need to write down things like the WiFi password or an account log-in, but keep a close eye on any notes they may have around the house. Do they need a reminder for everyday things like how to turn the TV on or start the dishwasher? This could be a sign of memory loss, which can influence financial behaviors.
  • They have bills piling up. If you begin to notice stacks of unpaid bills or collection notices, this is a clear sign they need help with their finances. 
  • They’re taking on risky investments. Investment fraud is an unfortunate possibility, and older people are often targeted for these scams. If an investment sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Observing these behaviors can be concerning on a purely emotional level, but they are also potentially indicative of a bigger need to step in and begin serious conversations with your parents about their current financial situation. From there you can work together to create a plan for the future.

Choose the Right Time and Place

Timing is everything. Be mindful of busy or stressful times of the year, like holidays, when your parents may not be as receptive. This conversation will likely take them by surprise, so approach it from a place of empathy and be as sensitive as possible to their feelings. 

When the time is right, find a space that’s private and comfortable – ideally a moment when there will be minimal distractions and interruptions. You don’t want to rush these discussions, so be sure that everyone involved has a few free hours to devote themselves fully.

Prepare Yourself Mentally

You will perhaps feel uneasy in this role reversal of influencing your parents’ choices around their money and finances. Take some time to reflect on your own emotions and anxieties. If you’re uncomfortable talking about money in the first place, it may be a good idea to seek professional guidance on how to potentially overcome that, or to at least arm yourself with a few tools you can use to make the conversation easier.

Most importantly, you must manage your expectations. Understanding this may be an ongoing dialogue can be helpful for easing tension. The likelihood of solving every issue in one conversation is slim, so set yourself up for success by deciding on the goals you’d like to accomplish in the first session, and focus on those.

Start with an Open-Ended Approach

It’s a good idea to ease into the conversation. Beginning with, “You don’t know how to control your finances anymore, so I’m taking over” can be a complicated and potentially triggering way to introduce the changes you’re hoping to discuss. The goal is to create a non-judgmental atmosphere that is a safe place for honest discussions.

Open-ended questions are a perfect way to encourage sharing. A great starting point is to ask your parents for advice about your financial situation (whether you need it or not). Planning for retirement, paying off credit card debt – start with ‘softball’ topics to get the conversation flowing. Their responses may give you a better insight into their current financial strategies.

Another great way to start these discussions is to open up about your own financial strategies. Have you successfully built up your credit score over the past year? Did you recently secure a loan for a new home? Sharing your own experiences can help prepare your parent’s mindset.

If your parents love watching the news, you might also consider opening with discussions about relevant stories concerning the economy and health care. Using current events as a jumping-off point can help make your parents more receptive to the financial concerns you’ll eventually bring up.

There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy when it comes to having money conversations with your aging parents, so take the time to consider what strategy will work best for you. Whatever approach you take, listen actively and attentively to your parents’ concerns and wishes. Remember, this isn’t easy for them either.

On this Episode

Money Questions You Should Be Asking Your Parents

Gather Financial Information

You’ll need to get a complete picture of your parents’ finances, because the bills you see around the house are likely just a snapshot of the reality. Know where their money is kept, how much is in there, who has access to it, and how they use it.

Together, make a list of all of their income sources, expenses, and assets. You can review their tax returns as well to confirm any additional income sources. If they have a financial advisor, you can request a meeting with everyone present to ensure no critical information is left behind.

You will also need to gather high-priority financial documents, including: 

  • A will
  • A durable power of attorney
  • List of bank accounts
  • Tax Returns
  • Pension documents (if applicable)
  • Life insurance policy
  • Loans and debts

Organize and categorize all records to the best of your ability so you and your parents can get a 360-degree view of their finances.

Discuss Estate Planning

No one enjoys planning for what will happen once they die, but estate planning is a critical part of your parents’ financial well-being and the legacy they will leave behind.

Make sure they have the most critical estate planning documents completed, such as a will, trust, beneficiaries, and powers of attorney. You may be surprised to discover that your parents never considered creating a will or establishing a power of attorney for their finances or healthcare needs. Explain to them why these documents are helpful, and ask for permission to access their assets.

Explore Long-Term Care and Healthcare Expenses

Healthcare and potential long-term care are some of the highest expenses your parents will likely face, and the reality is that those expenses will continue to increase. 

Over the past five years, the cost of assisted living has increased by 4.4% annually, bringing the median annual cost in the US today at over $57,000 a year. The cost of long-term care will differ depending on what state you live in, but it’s often a significant financial commitment wherever you are.

Get to the core of what your parents’ wishes are for their healthcare needs. Ask important questions such as:

  • What is your current health insurance coverage?
  • Are you concerned about any particular health issues?
  • If you were no longer able to live on your own, where would you prefer to live?
  • What are your end-of-life wishes?
  • Who do you want to take care of your healthcare needs if you are no longer able to do so?

Remember, this conversation revolves around helping your parents identify and hopefully achieve their wishes and goals.

Address Scams and Financial Security

Older adults are more likely to fall victim to scammers. According to an AARP study conducted in 2023, an estimated $28.3 billion is lost to elder fraud scams yearly, whether from strangers or other family members.

Take this opportunity to educate your parents about common financial scams targeting seniors. To help deter scams, encourage your parents to monitor credit activity and set up identity theft protection on a credit card. 

Most importantly, establish an open line of communication with your parents. They may be embarrassed or scared to admit if they’ve fallen victim to a scam. Share stories about any of your own near-encounters with scams, and explain how intricate these criminal strategies are becoming. An open dialogue about fraud and theft will likely make your parents more comfortable speaking up in the future.

Seek Professional Guidance for Legal and Financial Advice

You may begin these discussions thinking you can handle your parents’ finances independently, but hiring a professional with expertise in senior financial planning might become necessary. They can assess your parents’ financial situation, handle conflicts, organize paperwork, and help you collectively make these important decisions.

Dealing with money changes and financial considerations can be scary and potentially threatening for your parents, so ensure that your conversations with them come from a place of empathy. If you can be a source of guidance and assistance without immediately taking over, you may be able to work together to support your parents and help them build a stronger financial future that you all feel good about.

If you have questions on how to start conversations about money, or if your parents are searching for professional advice, get in touch with our team at Abacus today.


Shuman, Taylor. “How Much Does Assisted Living Cost?” Senior Living. 21 Mar. 2024

Gunther, Jilenne. “The Scope of Elder Financial Exploitation: What it Costs Victims” AARP. June 2023


This material is not intended to serve as personalized tax and/or investment advice since the availbility and effectiveness of any strategy is dependent upon your individual facts and circumstances. Abacus Wealth Partners is not an accounting firm. Please consult with your tax professional regarding your specific tax situation when determining if any of the mentioned strategies are right for you. 


What’s your financial archetype?

Simplify your life with a plan

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.