Talking about money with your family is hard, especially between different generations. The topic can be charged with emotional and control issues. It can also lead to the discovery that something different needs to be happening.
My spouse and I have been prying that particular conversational door open with our adult children and their spouses for several years now in our annual family meeting, but not a whisper of talk has been planned with the oldest member of our family – my spouse’s 90 year old Mom.
There are four siblings – 2 in their 60’s, 1 in their 50’s and one in their 40’s. My in-laws and their children were a hard working lower middle class family unit. Their Dad passed away 7 years ago and their Mom has been in a senior home for the past 4 years. It’s a pretty expensive place and she loves it there, but all 4 kids are wondering how long it will be before Mom presents them with a financial crisis and call for financial help with the monthly rent. Mom doesn’t share her financial situation and is still in total control of it all, in spite of having enormous difficulty seeing due to macular degeneration.
With such an obvious need for the siblings to understand the financial situation of this greatest generation member, they continue to postpone having that discussion. Why is that?
Many of us fear having the money discussion with our parents. Here are my thoughts on the fears we have.
Fear of angering parents.
No matter how old we become, parents still command a large and powerful presence in our lives. We may think that we have moved past our childhood dependence on pleasing our parents, but in reality, we still want to do so. Bringing up the subject of parental finances – especially with a generation not open to that particular discussion – may make our parents mad….. at us…. for daring to:
- question their competence
- be nosy about what they have
- appearing to try to get their money from them.
Fear of what we may find out.
Even if your parents may be open to that discussion, many of us might fear the results of the conversation.
Are Mom and Dad behind in their house payment and the house about to be re-possessed? Are they surviving on beans and rice because they don’t have enough money? Are they spending or giving away that inheritance we thought we might get?
Fear of having to deal with consequences.
As long as we are blissfully ignorant of what help Mom and Dad may need, our conscious is clear. Once we find out that they are having trouble paying bills, meeting expenses, managing their accounts or dealing with unscrupulous sales people, we can no longer ignore that nagging little voice inside that says we are supposed to help them, that we need to take some responsibility to make things work.
What if our parents really don’t have enough money to live? How will we manage to take that on in addition to our own financial burdens?
What if our parents need us to handle their day to day finances? How can we do that with all of the other tasks in our busy day?
Fear of siblings thinking you are trying to get parents money.
Usually one of the siblings in the family will end up taking the lead on having the money talk and resolving the situation. That sibling runs the risk of having her brothers and sisters think she is trying to get more than her fair share of the parental assets.
Fear the parents will judge our money aptitude or meddle or lecture us.
Especially if we haven’t demonstrated, beyond doubt, to parents and siblings that our own financial lives are in order, we may find that we are on the receiving end of lectures, disapproving looks and gossip about our own financial situations.
Parents may turn around and try to ‘help’ us out by offering unsolicited advice or trying to insert themselves somehow in our financial affairs. Siblings will question our ability to make things right for Mom and Dad and throw up roadblocks.
Just facing the fact that we may have these fears could allow us to conquer them and move forward. Everyone’s solution to conquering these fears is most likely different. What is yours?
What fears do you have about talking to your parents about money?