Transforming your relationship with your parents about money is not an easy task. With the right tools, though, you can do it. You will be able to discuss issues and topics that were previously off-limits and figure out ways to work in tandem with your parents to improve, modify, or change their financial circumstances. You will have a new sense of freedom in your communication with each other and no longer fear the forbidden topics of money and death.
But to get to this place, you will have to take a series of well-planned steps that require your patience and persistence. The first step is to plan out a Family Meeting to sit down with your parents, review their finances, and help them make plans for their future. This family meeting is an integral part of your new relationship and has a number of different pieces that need to be put in place before the meeting occurs. If these pieces are not prepared properly, the Family Meeting can become a disaster; resulting in hurt feelings, anger, and possibly the breakdown of all financial communication.
The Family Meeting should be planned well in advance to avoid any such nasty surprises. One of the most important things to do first is to identify who amongst the children is most appropriate to coordinate and lead the meeting. This is the child that parents can easily communicate with, the child that they are comfortable discussing their personal affairs with, and the child that has no fear in asking them important questions.
The second person you want to involve in the Family Meeting is one of your parents’ trusted advisors. In your own case, your most trusted advisor might be your financial planner or your accountant. But that might not be true for your parents. In their generation, they might not have had much contact with a financial planner. They may never have used an accountant to prepare their taxes. Take a look at their situation. Who did they turn to when they had a family crisis? Who have they sought out when they had financial questions? That is the person you want. It may be a family lawyer, a local bank executive, or even a minister, rabbi, or priest. The important thing is that your parents are comfortable with them and trust their advice.
The trusted advisor’s role will be to present the idea of the family meeting to your parents and convince them (if necessary) that it is a good idea and will benefit the family. He or she will also share with them a list of topics to be discussed at the meeting.
In Part Two we will discuss the Agenda of the Family Meeting.