A few months ago, I listened to the Because Money podcast episode called “The One Where We Talk About our Aging Parents” (Season 4, Episode 10). It was a mini wake-up call for me…maybe not an alarm clock that beeps really loud in your face, but more like one that wakes you up with cool Jazz jams. I thought to myself “Damn, yeah. I guess my parents are going to die at some point.”
Obviously, that wasn’t a new thought to me, but I had never considered it from a financial perspective. It would be really stressful to have to scramble around the legal and financial components in that moment. It would be way easier to deal with their passing if we had already talked through an action plan. It’s likely to be enough of a shock in itself;I won’t need any extra stress. I realized by talking about it with them now, I can be even just a little bit more ready for the stress of that moment. Knowing what my mom’s wishes are if she ever needs to move out of her house, for example, would be very helpful to know in advance if that moment ever comes.
Both my parents are still working, so it’s helpful for me to know about potential retirement plans for them too. I definitely want to start saving now if my Stepdad is expecting me to support his living expenses, for example. The bigger head start I can get on that, the better.
Even though my parents are still so young, I want to broach all the things: retirement, illness, and death, since of course illness and death could happen at any time. I can check in with them in a few years to see if things change (my personal wish 10 years ago, was to have my body torn into small pieces and left in trees for animals to eat…sadly, I learned that’s not legal so I’ve had to replan). Maybe in 10 years, my parents’ wishes around death will change too.
After nerding out on the internet for a few hours and reading….*sigh* all right, scanning a ton of articles about this, here’s my plan of attack.
Think about who they are and how they want to be approached
My parents are not good at difficult conversations. The more personal a topic is, the less my Mom wants to talk about it (and the more I do!) You know that old saying (that I just made up): “the apple doesn’t fall far from the pineapple tree…” (get it? Because it does? Whatever. I think it’s hilarious.) Anyway, if you want to have a big conversation with them, you need to signal it as clearly as one of those neon-clad people on airplane runways holding orange sticks (“BIG. CONVERSATION. COMING. SEEEEEEEEEE??? HEEERE IT COMESSSSS!”)
My tactic is to write an email from me and my brother broaching the topic and asking if they want to have the big discussion through email or over Skype. We are all scattered across the country, so it can’t be in person.
My family copes with humour
For the most part, they like their serious conversations peppered with silliness, so I am making sure to include that in my initial approach. I also know that they like the morbid, so I’ll throw some of that in there as well.
So, my brother and I have decided to start with an email…a probe… Here’s my draft of it. I’ll write an update on how this whole thing goes. PS If they do suddenly mysteriously die, that post script assures my spot in the slammer forever, but hey, I’ll roll the dice…
Hey Mom and Jim,
I recently listened to a podcast episode in which they discussed how important it is to start talking with your parents about vital (but tough) things like retirement, aging, and the big D (no not dick, although if that’s something you want as a part of that process, I’m sure we can arrange something).
Ben and I have been talking about how we would like to open up that discussion with the two of you. I know you are both far away from retirement, and hopefully still really far away from the ageing and death part, but the sooner Ben and I can start to understand your wants, needs, and “hell no!s” around it all, the better.
We were thinking there are a couple of ways we can go about this discussion: we can do it over Skype, so we are all face-to-face, or we can do it as a series of emails. You guys decide. Here are some of the areas we would love to get a clearer understanding of:
I would specifically love to get an idea of what financial support (if any) you will need from us for your retirements, so that Ben and I can start saving for that (Ah, the magic of compound interest!).
I really want to get an understanding of what you would like your lives to look like if a) one of you is taking care of the other, who might be sick b) both of you are sick or c) only one of you is alive and that person is sick. Sorry, I know this stuff is rough to discuss! Ben and I just want to make sure we support you and love you in all these possible hard situations in the ways that you want.
The Big D
I would love a better understanding of how you want us to act when you guys bite the big one (I mean dick, obviously) in different potential circumstances:mental/physical deterioration, sudden attack by mutated giant ant puts you into a coma (because venom…obviously…whatever! It makes sense in my head!), etc. I could make an enormously fun list here of sudden ways to die, but I think you get my point. I also want to know things like what you would like assisted living to look like if we ever need to cross that bridge (would you prefer to live with one of us, in a nursing home–if so, what kind?). And then there is the technical shit like who is the executor of your will, if you get hit by an ice cream truck tomorrow, where do we find your insurance policies and financial information, etc.
I do have a list of questions I have drafted up that I could just email to you for your responses, but my thought is that a Skype call might be best.
Let us know what you think,
Love love love,
PS We are not asking these questions because we are trying to murder you and take over your veterinary empires. I repeat NOT. Nope, nuh-uh, definitely not…
Rags to Reasonable Community Outreach Coordinator
Emily Nixon is an actor/writer/director/filmmaking Swiss Army Knife. She is also a big money nerd and Community Outreach Coordinator for Rags to Reasonable.
She came to this work after becoming completely fed up with living paycheque-to-paycheque and being too afraid to look in her chequing account. She is passionate about empowering other artists and variable income earners to keep doing what they love and feel confident about their finances.
Email Emily at email@example.com