Adult Children And Aging Parents Should Plan for the Road Ahead
By Chris Kirkham
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 10, 2006; Page F01
Matt Cardillo’s parents were nearing retirement, and he didn’t have a clue about their plans. He was only in his early 30s, but with a son on the way and a mortgage to pay, he couldn’t help being concerned about their future financial stability.
His predicament: how to raise that question with the very people who taught him how to plan and save.
“Talk about the awkwardness of it,” said Cardillo, a 36-year-old software consultant from Gaithersburg. “As soon as you go there with the discussion, they’re thinking the extreme: Lock me away in a nursing home.”
Issues associated with the later years in life — retirement savings, long-term care, inheritance — can be difficult subjects that neither aging parents nor their middle-aged children want to confront. But financial experts emphasize that it’s in the interest of both generations to talk about long-term financial questions before a crisis hits.
That conversation, however, carries heavy emotional weight, foreshadowing a reversal of roles between parent and child and tangling the landscape of family relations.
Strategies for handling the conversation vary as widely as family styles, according to psychologists and financial experts. Some parents and their children can openly discuss many issues, including finances, while other families may need prodding to get the conversation going. Some parents, out of pride — or even suspicion of their children’s motives — may avoid the topic altogether.
“There’s the whole issue of making people talk about death and dying . . . and money,” said Olivia Mellan, a psychotherapist and author of “Money Harmony,” which deals with the intersection of relationships and finances. “These are two loaded issues. And together, it’s a heavy thing.”