How to speak with your parents about their finances

Depending on your relationship with your parents, it may not be easy to talk about finances with them. Just like you, they could be quite private about these types of matters and may question why you are asking. So how to you navigate the murky waters of a potentially awkward financial discussion with your mum or dad?

Initiating the talk
There have been lots of stories in the media about older generations being taken advantage of by untrustworthy family members and scammers; so initiating this talk may need to be approached delicately. If you do bring up this subject, your parents may become understandably cautious about your intrusion into their financial situation.

Concerned about your parents' financial future? You may have encountered some warning signs such as late payment of bills or credit cards. If this is the case it is a good idea to casually bring this up in conversation with your mum or dad when you first start noticing these signs rather than discussing without warning and leaving it too late.

Start by saying something such as; “You know I love you and I only want the best for you. I’ve noticed you have a few late payments on bills. I’m always here for anything you need. Is there anything at all I can do to help with your finances?”

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Overdue bills can be a warning sign that your parents are struggling to manage their finances

How to break the ice?
A genuine hello followed by a smile and a hug might be all it takes. Consider making your concerns clear when expressing yourself about your parents' financial situation and let them know that you’re trying to understand their finances better so you can help, if and when they need it. If your parents don’t feel like opening up yet, suggest that they might just give you a call to at a later time when they feel more comfortable discussing finances with you.

If your parents don’t respond at all to your advances (or ignore them completely) there may be little you can do. At the very least, make sure they know that you’re there for support when their finances become increasingly difficult or if they need some help with a big financial decision.

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Keeping an eye on your parents' finances
Sometimes, it might be beneficial to ask your parents to let you know that you are available to help with consultation on issues such as investments, insurance, savings or any other financially related topics. If your parents are unsure about anything, at least they know you are available to help them with any questions that they may have. Don’t push it but let them know the support is there if they ever want or need it.

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Let them know you're available to help them with any questions they may have

What not to say
Let's face it, finances can be an incredibly sensitive topic and if discussions are inappropriately handled, conversations can easily get heated which can cause permanent damage to your relationship. Be aware of any escalating tension and be prepared to politely end the conversation to continue the discussion at a later time. If this happens then make sure your mum or dad know you had good intentions and were just trying to help. If you need to apologise for overstepping the mark, then do it. Acknowledge how much your parents have helped you in the past and let them know family is about helping each other whenever you need it.

Sometimes, anger can arise from blame so avoid any heated language yourself. There can be a risk that the conversation spirals into something that is unproductive so prepare for the conversation before you have it.

No matter what, never threaten to take control of their finances or legal action. We all know that issues around finance have broken many families apart due to irreconcilable differences. So, observe how your mum or dad responds to your initial subtle advances regarding finances. If pressing the issue may lead to a situation you’re trying to avoid then consider suggesting organising a meeting for them with their bank or financial expert as a first step.

If you are having trouble communicating with a loved one and are concerned about their well-being then consider speaking with a psychologist, ask your GP for a referral or contact the APS ‘Find a Psychologist’ referral service by phone on 1800 333 497 or online.

What are your tips for discussing financial matters with parents? Tell us below.