With the arrival of our first child fast approaching, my wife and I in all of our excitement have been working through a to-do list to prepare for this lifechanging event. While we know we have many surprises ahead, taking the time to learn, ask questions and plan for what’s coming can only help us.

My focus has been planning for the next generation of our family, but this experience caused us to start asking our parents questions we hadn’t before. Both my wife and I grew up in homes where our grandparents played important roles in our childhoods, so it was important to confirm that their health and finances were in a good place. Importantly, these conversations helped us identify if we would need to provide support for our parents now or in the future.

Have you had this discussion with your parents yet?

Surprisingly, we learned through this experience just how open our parents were about providing candid answers to our questions about their health and finances. A generation ago, this wasn’t the case at all. Like most, they want to stay independent and not be a burden on their children and family. As they age, they asked that my brother and I check in to make sure their health and financial house stay in order.

We primed the conversation by asking them to read the book The Transparent Legacy, written by my colleague Cheryl Curran.

What questions should you ask?

  • Do you have any health concerns?
  • Do you have any financial concerns?
  • Do you have health insurance coverage in addition to Medicare?
  • Do you have long-term care insurance, or do you plan to pay for your long-term care costs from your resources?
  • Do you have enough saved to stay independent in retirement?
  • Do you have a will? How about healthcare and financial powers of attorney?
  • Do you have any debt?

What can you do?

If you’re concerned based on their answers to the questions above, there’s no better time than now to step in and try to nudge them in the right direction. It will only become more difficult over time to “right” the ship. If you think you’ll need to support your parents or any other loved ones, it’s important to ensure you have enough resources to avoid jeopardizing your own finances. This means you need to save above and beyond the amount needed to fund your retirement needs.

Think about it this way: If you plan to pay for any shortfalls, it can make a lot of financial sense to pay your parents’ long-term care insurance premium to avoid the policy lapsing.

Talk about it!

The best way to prepare and protect your family is to start with education and a thoughtful conversation. Spend the time now to educate your family members about the importance of saving for the unexpected in their own lives. Remember, surprises happen far less often when you have a plan.

We recommend speaking with an advisor about your family’s specific financial situation to help you determine how best to plan for it. Our job as advisors is to help protect our clients and their families from the unexpected.