As we work with clients, one of the biggest things we see is the lack of communication among generations about money. It’s not an easy subject to broach. Perhaps you had to pay your way through college. Or your parents didn’t help you as much as you expected. Maybe your parents thought you should have pursued a different career.  Or you grew up in a household that never discussed money – it was always dealt with quietly.

Family dynamics can be difficult. It’s human nature. However, when there is at least an attempt at dialogue, you may be able to sidestep many of the hurdles that we’ve seen.

  1. How are your parents supporting themselves financially? Is there a pension? A 401k? IRA? Is there insurance? Is the insurance the type you have to monitor annually – or a policy that requires annual premiums? Is there long term care insurance?
  2. Do the parents have an advanced healthcare directive? We typically recommend clients in California go to the California Medical Association website ( and order a booklet or consult their attorney. See a sample here: Advanced Health Care Directive Kit . An advanced healthcare directive allows someone to appoint a person as the healthcare agent and indicate how you’d like to be treated medically.
  3. Is there a will or trust? What advisor(s) or attorney has copies of this information? If it’s kept in a safe deposit box at a bank, where is the key stored?

Clients who have had the most success with planning conversations are typically those that start the conversation early.  Usually the conversation goes something like this: “As you’re now in retirement,  I wanted to understand a little more about your financial/health affairs.” Typical response: “I have everything under control — don’t worry about me/us.”

These types of conversations may need to be attempted multiple times before there is an opening. But, if you start the dialogue early, and try to broach it at a reasonable time consistently, we’ve seen success.

We understand that most people aren’t focused on the details of what is invested where or keeping track of insurance or health care forms. We have seen adult children have success asking a parent to put together a summary of their accounts so that someone other than themselves will have an idea of where things are located or the contact information for their advisor(s). This doesn’t mean that you have to have a full-blown conversation about your parent’s investment philosophy, how their will or trust is divided up, or how much they currently have in assets (if they don’t feel comfortable doing so). It means that you’ll be able to get this information when necessary. If you don’t have this information it may be very difficult to track down accounts, get banks to allow you to cash checks in parent’s accounts, and handle a parent’s finances when they are unable or unwilling to do so anymore. On the health care side, the failure to plan appropriately can have a dramatic impact.

Bob being from the Baby Boom Generation and myself from Gen-X, we’ve been able to “referee” a number of family generational conversations about money and planning.  Please reach out if we can be of any assistance whatsoever.