Do I dare ask Mom & Dad about their Retirement?

February 28, 2013 12:00 am

Derek M. Amey

Partner & Co-CIO

A few years ago my older sister asked me “Do we have to worry about supporting Mom & Dad in retirement?” I remember laughing it off at first, but then the financial advisor in me became scared.  I was worried because, at the time, I didn’t really know very many specifics about my parent’s financial situation. Frankly, I couldn’t answer my sister’s question because at the time I didn’t have any answers to even the most basic retirement questions:

How much have they saved?

How much debt do they have?

Are their legal documents (wills, health care proxies, insurance policies, etc.) in good order?

What kind of retirement do they see for themselves?


Discussing finances is NOT something that comes easy in most families, mine included. It’s a toss-up between which side is more uncomfortable, my parents or me and my sister. As much as we may want to delay these discussions, the reality is that you cannot avoid the conversation forever. The sooner you start talking about it, the more time you have to prepare and the less likely you will be caught off guard when the situation ultimately arises.

As I thought about the best way to broach the topic with my parents, I decided that for me, the best mindset was to realize that this was going to be a multi-step process. I was not going to try and get every answer to every planning question I had. Also, I didn’t want to overwhelm them. Retirement can be scary for anyone. Having their children pepper them with questions they may not know the answer to themselves can cause them to shut down.  If you take the plunge and start the discussion, be prepared you may find both you and your parents have more questions than answers. This is normal. There are plenty of experts out there to assist you and your parents in finding answers and solutions to the issues at hand.

Perhaps your parents will be accommodative and have answers, but my point is that you want to keep the lines of communication open.  The reality is as people live longer and longer these days, these discussions may only happen once or twice a year as retirement approaches. However, the deeper into retirement they go, the more often you’ll find yourself talking about your parent’s finances. How to start this conversation for a family is a personal issue.  What works best for the Amey’s will not work for everyone. The key, however, is to start!

As it so happened, my mother and father had already talked as a couple, and they had made some key decisions with respect to their retirement. For our first “family” discussion, I think it went pretty well as we were able to go over some of the big key issues. To be honest, they surprised me: they were ready and willing to discuss. It may not always be that easy. If you find your parents are unwilling to answer some basic questions, perhaps they just aren’t ready but at least they know you are there to help if and when they need it.

Derek Amey serves as Financial Advisor and Portfolio Manager at StrategicPoint Investment Advisors in Providence and East Greenwich. You can e-mail him at

The information contained in this post is not intended as investment, tax or legal advice. StrategicPoint Investment Advisors assumes no responsibility for any action or inaction resulting from the contents herein. Derek’s opinions and comments expressed on this site are his own and may not accurately reflect those of the firm. Third party content does not reflect the view of the firm and is not reviewed for completeness or accuracy. It is provided for ease of reference.