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How To Talk Retirement Savings With Your Parents: 6 Essential Tips

Young woman talking about retirement savings on the phone with parent.

Most people get the bulk of their financial lessons from their parents. As you grow up, the older generation is there to explain how money works, what banks do, how interest can help or hinder you, and other important lessons.

As you grow older, you may have a few nuggets of financial smarts to share with them. New market trends, money management apps, and even lingo is helpful to teach aging parents. Often, though, younger generations stop short of discussing retirement savings with their elders.

Why is that? You can agree the conversation may be an awkward one. You may feel that your parents may not be comfortable sharing such personal information such as, the size of their own nest egg. After all, the markets, new technology, and even economics are largely impersonal. Retirement savings, on the other hand, is a private matter.

That doesn’t make the topic untouchable.

Here are 6 ways to effortlessly discuss retirement savings with your parents:

1. Anticipate an ongoing conversation. If you try to bring it up and the talk goes nowhere, take heart. There will be other opportunities. Keep the dialogue open by casually mentioning retirement savings from time to time. That way, if ever the conversation needs to go deeper, the soil is ready.

2. Use context clues to dive in. “Dad, I know you relied heavily on the stock market and you used to prefer risky accounts. Are you pleased with that move now?” Or, “Mom, the roof still needs to be fixed. Do you need help finding a good handyman, or is the problem financial?” These methods start with what’s obvious, so the person doesn’t feel ambushed.

3. Ask their advice. Parents are eager to offer lessons learned, so honor that characteristic by asking them what they recommend for your own retirement accounts. What would they advise, based on their experience? Along the same lines, what have they done that worked, and what hasn’t? This will also give you an idea of how open they are to more questions.

4. Show your own cards. Don’t expect your older family members to be forthcoming with details that you haven’t shared about your own situation. Estimate if you need to, but don’t shroud your numbers in mystery and hope to know specifics about theirs.

5. Be ready with answers. You don’t need to be an economist to know the basics of smart money management. Prepare yourself with what you’ve learned so far regarding non-profit credit counseling, budgeting, saving, and making extra cash with a side gig. That way, if you find out your mom or dad is struggling with debt, you have a hopeful solution. Or if your parents are interested in a fresh budget, for example, you know where to start.

6. Dream together. “I’d love to do a cruise someday with the whole family, and ticket prices aren’t that bad. What are your financial hopes for the next 5 years? 10?” This approach may sound lighthearted, but it will likely yield lots of information that can put your mind at ease. If the answer is focused on survival or climbing out of debt, you get an idea of how they’re doing, and what they need. If on the other hand, your parents’ hopes and dreams involve a harvest of investments, then you can breathe a little easier.

One good outcome that usually rises out of these conversations is the recognition that parents often have kids in mind and don’t want to be a burden as they age. Usually, young people are assured after a casual conversation about retirement savings, and you might be too.

Consumer Education Services, Inc. (CESI) is a non-profit committed to empowering and inspiring consumers nationwide to make wise financial decisions and live debt free. Speak with a certified counselor for a free debt analysis today.

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