I usually use the Winter holiday season to encourage folks to talk about money with their family. But, the ongoing coverage about inflation and a possible recession, plus a recent conversation with a friend, makes this as good a time as any to switch things up. 

Especially when it comes to sharing possible talking points and actions to take, so that you can do everything you can to financially protect the seniors in your life.

The conversation I had with my friend happened just two days after the Fed raised interest rates 75 basis points. You see, my friend’s mother has a fixed annuity, with a variable component that kicks in if the market is x% above an index. Even though the Fed’s move was positive for my friend’s mother, she was a little confused and worried. (The Fed’s hike affected the variable part of her annuity.)

Thankfully, my friend used to work in banking and understands how annuities of this type work. So, she was able to quell her mother’s worry and address her confusion. 

Reminding her mother of the details of the annuity she has was easy. The same can’t be said for the emotions it triggered.  

Another friend wished her father had opened up to her about what was going on sooner than he did. Sadly, he lost his home and a good chunk of his money to someone who preyed on his frailty. (He’s in the early stages of dementia.) 

These two friends of mine don’t know each other. Yet, they share something in common. They are in the sandwich generation.

Being in the sandwich generation can be emotionally challenging, particularly when it comes to…

…helping elders with their finances – whether that involves managing their money, answering questions, quelling fears, or protecting them from predators.

You may be in a similar situation – whether it’s with your parents or another senior who is dear to you?

If so, do you discuss how your parents (or senior-aged loved ones) are investing their money? Do they seem to understand what they have? 

Do they talk with you about the news and how rising prices are affecting the quality of their life?

Can you tell if they’re being financially abused?

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. population aged 65 or older is 54.1 million. This likely means you DO love someone in this demographic. 

It also may mean, you’re already having some “interesting” conversations with your loved ones about their money and their wishes. Or, you’re in the camp of wishing they’d be open to doing so.

A Plea That Benefits Everyone

I realize I was fortunate; my mother and I talked about money. (You may recall me sharing how she showed me how to balance a checkbook when I was in middle school!) 

My mother was many things, including being a planner and practical. When her cancer returned, she initially designated me her Power of Attorney. Then, I became a joint account owner. Then, she had her estate plan created. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I was the bottleneck in terms of this progression happening at a faster pace. Why? Because I was scared!!!)

I am grateful to my mother for many things, including the gift of her having her financial affairs in order. As a result, I was able to grieve without contending with financial matters that should have been addressed prior to her death. 

Though the dynamics are different, I can understand why my friend’s father didn’t open up to her about the conditions of his finances. He was doing what most parents do: protecting his children. But his protection, in the form of hiding embarrassing details, came at a huge cost. 

And when she expressed her frustration with me about her father’s situation with the words, “help me help you,” I could understand that, too. 

Because had she known what was going on, he’d still own his home and wouldn’t have had money depleted from his accounts over a period of about ten years.

A Second Set of Eyes

Per a piece from AARP, “More than 369,000 incidents of financial abuse targeting older adults are reported to authorities in the U.S. each year, causing an estimated $4.8 billion in losses, according to a January 2022 analysis of federal and state data by Comparitech, a cybersecurity research company.”

Sometimes financial abuse and fraud happens because of strangers (think: those unsolicited phone calls requesting financial information). Other times, it happens by people a person trusts (think: a family member or caregiver). Unfortunately, this was the case with my friend’s father. 

Several years ago, EverSafe was created by a tech expert after learning his mother had been financially exploited. A service like this would have allowed my friend to be a “second set of eyes,” and she would have detected the suspicious activity happening with her father’s financial accounts – even from half-way across the country. 

What’s Your Game-Plan

As the seniors in your life age, it’s natural that they may need a little extra help dealing with their finances and financial affairs. 

It also may be the case that you’ll need to take the lead in getting things going. 

To help in this regard, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • There is no perfect time to get the conversation going. But current news and events can help get things started.
  • It may very well feel awkward and emotional for everyone involved.
  • It’s important to remember you’re not just having one conversation…it’s a series of conversations.
  • You goal is to be in the know about what they have (and wish). You want to know their: account types; account numbers; names of institutions (financial, investing, credit card); tax returns for the last five years; and more. In fact, the National Institute of Health has a pretty lengthy list for reference.

As with most relationships when it comes to sensitive topics, it boils down to negotiation and collaboration.

So, there’s no doubt financially protecting the seniors in your life can be a fine line to walk. Because you don’t want them to feel like you’re taking over and are controlling them. On the contrary, you simply want to be kept in the loop and be an asset to them! They retain complete autonomy unless their health circumstances requires something else.

Today’s piece is a call to action to take advantage of the upcoming long holiday weekend. This may be the perfect time to either initiate the conversations you need to have, or pick up where you left off previously. 

And if you have a hard time getting your parents (or senior-aged loved ones) to open up and talk with you about their money and wishes, feel free to use the stories shared herein as conversation starters. Combined, these snippets tap into three discussion areas directly (investing, banking, and estate planning), and two indirectly (insurance and taxes). 

None of us can control when inflation will rear its head, or the volatility of the stock market. Nor can we control what the Fed does (or doesn’t do) and how that ends up affecting our day-to-day living. 

But what you talk about when you talk with the seniors in your life is a) something you can control, and b) an incredibly great way to financially protect your loved ones.

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