4 Important Questions to Ask Your Parents

I was reading Jean Chatzky’s column (sorry, no link yet) in the October issue of Money when I came across four questions that adult children should ask their [older] parents. This is all a part of “the conversation” about finances that every family should have. The questions, which come from John Migliaccio, an expert on aging and the president of the American Institute of Financial Gerontology, are:

1. How expensive of a lifestyle do you want to live for the rest of your lives?

2. Where do you want to live, and in what kind of home?

3. What sort of health-care and lifesaving measures do you want taken, if necessary?

4. Who do you want to put legally in charge of carrying out all of these wishes?

According to the article, Migliaccio’s parents did not like being asked these questions, which is understandable considering how private most people are when it comes to their finances. Also, coming from a child, these questions might make the parents feel stupid so be careful how you ask them. The answers to the above questions were Migliaccio’s 50th birthday present.

2 thoughts on “4 Important Questions to Ask Your Parents”

  1. Slightly off-topic, but under the heading of asking your parents sensitive money-related questions, my wife recently asked her parents on how much their retirement costs. We were asking for our own planning purposes. One of the difficult things we have been grappling with is the question of income need during retirement.

    So, we figured, her 70-something parents were a pretty good example of a golden retirement (health issues aside). They own their home outright, no debt, and also own outright a waterfront condo in a warm climate, where they spend the winter season. They eat out a fair amount, splurge on their grandkids all the time, drive two cars (owned outright) one of which is a luxury model. So, we figured, what’s not to like about their retirement! If we can understand their number, then we can understand our number (with some fin’l engineering of course).

    To our surprise (more like shock), once they understood why we were asking, they were willing to detail their expenses, income sources, and investment balances. The one thing we probably won’t have is much pension income, though I’m guessing SS will still be around in 20 years.

    Anyhow, the number was less than I thought it was and helped to put me at ease. The key seems to be getting out of debt (including mortgage) before retiring and being in a position to pay cash for big ticket items (like cars). And I know we can eventually save enough to provide the inflation-adjusted equivalent of their pensions (and SS if we had to). Thanks to mom & dad our planning will be a bit more effective.

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