A retirement confab with the folks

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Canny View article by Glen Trillo, Authorised Financial Adviser. 

Published in Hawke's Bay Today.

It's easy to avoid discussing money with your parents, and in some families, the subject is almost taboo.

The topic doesn't become easier to broach as parents and children age, but it does become more important.

Adult children also need to know at what point their parents may need help, either financially or with managing their retirement income.

Though parents may be reluctant to talk about retirement and money, it's an important conversation all adult children can and should initiate.

Here are six steps to having the retirement conversation with parents.

1. Set the stage

Money and ageing are sensitive topics. Introduce the subject of your parents' retirement at a time when you can have a peaceful, rational, and face-to-face conversation about their plans for the future.

2. Get support

Consider including siblings or other relatives — or at least telling them about your plans to gather the facts about your parents' financial future. A trusted financial professional can also be an educated and unbiased resource to guide the conversation, diffuse any tension, and keep topics on track.

3. Make your motivations clear
Tell your parents that you want to know about their plans in case they need help in the future. Your goal is to understand their wishes and resources, not to take control. Explain that you're there to help — and acknowledge that the subject is sensitive.

4. Ask the right questions
The focus should be on gathering information, not giving advice. Instead of telling your parents what they "should" be doing, try framing statements with "I." For example: "One of the things I'd like to know about ..." or "I'm concerned about ..."

Follow those introductory phrases with questions like:
• What are your plans for retirement, are you confident you are on the right path?
• What are your planned sources of retirement income?
• Do you have any sources of debt? If so, what are they?
• What type of insurance coverage do you have (life, long-term care, medical insurance)?
• If you were unable to live in your current location, where would you want to go?
• Have you considered if you could maintain a household alone if necessary?
• Are you now working with a financial planning professional?

5. Locate documents

Ask about your parents' important documents, including where the originals are stored and if they are up-to-date (including beneficiary designations). 
Make a list of the following:
• Bank accounts, wills, trusts
• Health and long-term care insurance policies
• Investments and pensions
• Durable power of attorney, health care proxy, living will

6. Keep the conversation going
Ideally, this will not be a one-time discussion. The subject will likely become more comfortable for everyone.

It's best to seek advice and an Authorised Financial Adviser can provide your parents with information and ideas to help them manage their finances.

Ask regularly about their plans and concerns and tell them you're available if they'd like help addressing certain issues. Keep a list of the things you know about your parents' finances and what you need to learn.

Approach these conversations with love and respect, and the results may surprise you. You may even want to share some of your own plans, so it's not all about your parents.

• Glen Trillo is the Head of Wealth Management at Stewart Financial Group and its associated company. Stewart Group is a Hawke's Bay-owned and operated independent financial planning and advisory firm based in Hastings. The information provided, or any opinions expressed in this article, are of a general nature only and should not be construed or relied on as a recommendation to invest in a financial product or class of financial products. You should seek financial advice specific to your circumstances from an Authorised Financial Adviser before making any financial decisions. A disclosure statement can be obtained free of charge by calling 0800 878 961 or visit our website, www.stewartgroup.co.nz