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Conversation starters to help older adults manage their finances with the ACT approach

By: Julie Ann Soukoulis
May 5, 2017

Last week we began our discussion of how one in five seniors say that discussing their finances with their adult children is more difficult than discussing their sex life. I have a three-step strategy to help have the money conversation and develop a financial plan for a loved one’s golden years.

In our conversation we began last week, a woman named Kendall was speaking with her father who seemed to be getting along fine on his own after his wife died, and whenever Kendall asked if she could help him with tasks like paying bills, he replied he had everything “under control.” Once the father was hospitalized she quickly found out that simply wasn’t the case. To overcome any awkwardness about initiating the financial conversation, try using these approaches:


For Family Caregivers:

• Ask open-ended questions: “If the cost of maintaining the house becomes difficult in the future, Dad, how do you feel about downsizing?”

•  Make respectful suggestions: “I know you’re very good at budgeting, Mom, but retirement planning can be so complicated. Why don’t I find you a financial planner to help you develop a strong plan to maintain your independence?”

For Seniors:

• Share your rationale: “I always said I never want to become a burden on my children in older age. I’d like to share my financial plans with you to set your mind at ease and so you can see how I’m planning to take care of myself.”

• Ask for help directly: “I’m concerned I will not be able to maintain my standard of living in retirement. Can you help me create a financial plan?”

•Acknowledge the awkwardness: “You’ve never tried to pry into my finances, son, and I realize this may feel awkward for you now. But I want to share some of my plans with you because I’m going to rely on you for help if I reach the point where I can’t manage my money on my own.”.

Kendall’s story had a happy ending. Although her dad had squandered some of his money, he was able to get back on track with the help of his daughter and a professional financial planner. And the episode opened the door to a frank conversation about money.

Discussing finances with your parents or adult children may feel uncomfortable at first, but once you get the conversation started you might experience a good deal of relief at bringing these issues out into the open.  To help in aiding you with these difficult conversations, we have developed the ACT approach.  ACT (Assess, Consider, Talk) to help determine how your future will look. Completing the exercises in this document could help prepare you for the kind of future you desire. You can call my office at 707-586-1516 and request we mail you a free copy of ACT to help get you started or help you navigate towards other resources that might be of help to you.


Julie Ann Soukoulis is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park, mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her own two parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, to educate and encourage seniors & caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? She’d love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.