… Okay, but what are your parents’ retirement plans?

We often think about our own retirement plans, but these are actually not the ones most likely to hit you first. More urgent is the concept of knowing your parents’ retirement plans.

This is especially important if your parents are nearing the 65 years-old benchmark, but actually it’s vital to know at any time. Why? Because most of us, and especially the older generation, do not talk about money openly. So while you are living your life, there could be plans – or the lack of plans – that are going to majorly hit your finances once your folks retire.

The best thing to do is sit down and ask them plainly, getting as specific as possible. It can be an uncomfortable conversation to have, but forewarned is forearmed. Here are a couple of the most important questions:

When are you planning on retiring? Are you planning anything specific for then?
If your parents are planning to retire in just a few years or are in an industry with forced retirement and they don’t have enough savings… guess who’s going to fund that retirement? Best you know now.

Am I in your plans? Or am I the plan?
This is essentially the most crucial question. You need to know as soon as possible if you will need to take care of your parents. Until you have this conversation, you may have no idea that you’d subconsciously assumed your parents would give you their nest egg savings someday while they assumed they’d invest it on travel once they retired. That’s why these talks are so important.

Are there any debts?
This includes a home loan, medical bills, any existing student loans for you or your siblings that your parents took on and smaller things like cellphone contracts and clothing store accounts. Find out exactly what they owe and if they have the means to pay it back. This can also help you determine whether or not their ideas of retirement and if they have the funds are realistic. Again, try to seem helpful rather than probing as this is often a tough conversation for many parents.

Is there insurance and an updated Will?
Insurance gets a bad rap, but can be a huge relief if you know that your parents have adequate cover in place for the unforeseen ills of getting older, like sudden medical expenses, disability cover and even life insurance should they pass away. Check that both parents have adequate cover for all eventualities and, if they don’t, get them on it as soon as possible. Any retirement savings that are in place will get used to finance a crisis if there is no cover in place.

Also, unpleasant as it is to think about, if your parents are getting older you need to ensure that they each have a Last Will and Testament with up-to-date contents. It’s the only way for them to legally ensure their last wishes are complied with.

Do you understand that I’m asking these things because I care about you?
You’re probably thinking ‘this is a terrible idea’ at this point. Again, this conversation is uncomfortable for everyone 90 percent of the time. It’s natural for people to no want to talk about a time they’d be unable to feed themselves, and similarly you don’t want to feel cold-hearted. Just try broaching the subject lovingly and take it slow. It doesn’t need to all happen at once. It just needs to happen.

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