We’ve talked on this blog before about having a conversation with your parents about where they stand, financially. What we haven’t yet discussed is how to incorporate your siblings in that conversation.
When you have multiple people involved, and you’re the one who’s leading the charge – I’m guessing here, based on the fact that you’re reading this blog post – it can add a layer of difficulty. On top of that, you may be spread across the country (or across the world), and you’re very likely at different income levels. Here, some tips for pulling it all together:
- Determine roles. It makes sense to play to your strengths while still including everyone in some way. Maybe you’ve always had a special way of talking to your parents, and they’re more open with you about their finances – if that’s the case, you can have the important conversations, then pass the information on to your siblings. If you’re organized, maybe you handle their paperwork or take on the task of researching options if or when they need to move into an assisted living or care facility. If another sibling lives closer, they may fall into the role of day to day care or be the power of attorney – but in the wired world that we live in, those of you who live out of town can still help pay bills online or handle other tasks that can be dealt with remotely. The bottom line is to talk to your siblings about how involved they can be and want to be, then split up the workload.
- Understand individual situations – financially speaking. In most families, assets are going to vary: Money-wise, your brother or sister may be able to help out more than you, or vice versa. You have to manage this situation in a way that alleviates the guilt of the one who isn’t contributing as much and the pressure on the one who is contributing the most. Not easy, but your most effective tool here is open and honest conversation. If you’re the moneyed sibling, don’t make your brothers and sisters feel bad for not contributing more than they can. If you’re on the other side, understand that your sibling is contributing more financially because he or she can. And if your parents are still in the saving for retirement stage, encourage them to make smart spending and saving choices now so you might avoid this altogether.
- Find a neutral party. Often, it’s helpful to bring in some help, particularly if you’re hitting a wall. A financial advisor will serve as an outsider to the situation and can help mediate family meetings and set you up with a plan of accomplishing your family’s goals. Your parents may already have an advisor they trust now who can fill this role; if not, find someone who specializes in elder or estate planning.
Note: One solution here, if all siblings can contribute something, is to work out the financials on a percentage basis – maybe you all contribute the same percentage of your income. The amounts will vary, but it will feel more even.
Have you had a conversation with your siblings about the finances of your parents? What did you learn from that experience?