Simply Money

Simply Money

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How can I get my mom to open up about her finances?


My mom is 86, a widow, and doesn’t like to open up about much. Any suggestions for how to get her to actually talk to me about her finances? I’m afraid she’ll see my questioning as being too nosy, but I just want to make sure she’s OK.

A: We’re not sure if this will make you feel any better, but you’re not alone. We know many people (even some of our clients) who have faced huge challenges trying to get their parents to open up about such a sensitive topic. The key, as strange as it sounds, is to not make the conversation about them – at least to start.  

What do we mean? Try initiating the conversation by talking about your own situation, then asking for your mother’s advice or her opinion. For instance, “I just had a meeting with my financial advisor last week, and she and I talked about what kind of lifestyle and budget I want in retirement. What’s your experience been like?” Or, “I’m nervous about running out of money in retirement. Have you ever felt this way?” Ask any sort of question that will get her to open up on her own terms.

If you want to use a more direct approach, just be sure you’re always coming at it from a place of love and concern. Saying, “Mom, I love you and I’m concerned about your well-being. Is everything OK? Can I help you with any of your finances?” is better than saying, “Mom, how’s your money situation?” 

Another option is to take yourself out of the picture. Because, like it or not, even though you’re a grown adult, your mother might still see you as her “little girl,” making it difficult to discuss serious issues. This is when a third party, such as a trusted financial advisor, can help. She might feel more comfortable opening up to a professional.

Here’s The Simply Money Point: This isn’t a one-and-done situation. You should try to have an ongoing dialogue with your mother about her situation, no matter how brief the discussion. Hopefully this will get easier with each conversation. Yes, it will take a lot of patience, but in the end, your family will be stronger and much better prepared for financial surprises.


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