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Help your children help you

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Posted: 2 pm ET

Talking to your children about the time when you might need their help -- before that time comes -- is a very important retirement planning step to take, says Pat Drea, the chief operating officer of Visiting Angels, a home health care agency with more than 400 franchises around the country.

Drea, who has 25 years' experience in the home care industry, says some of the most troubling and destructive aspects of family financial management are related to the disagreements and resentments that result when the older generation needs financial help, and the younger one has to give it.

She says you can mitigate this pain by sharing the details of your financial situation with all your children long before there's a crisis, so they understand your situation and your wishes and can factor the possibility that you might need their help into their own planning.

"The age when we should be entering into this discussion is in our 50s," she says. "That reduces the risk of having this discussion in a crisis when everyone will feel vulnerable, and we will feel defensive."

Be very open about your retirement situation, Drea says, including sharing things such as pension and Social Security  totals, 401(k) statements and stock portfolios. More information is better than less.

Make sure the discussion isn't totally focused on you, she advises. Ideally, this should be a collaborative effort in which everyone gets something good out of the process. Listen to your adult children's concerns and their wishes. The best outcome of this conversation is a situation where you can help them, and they can help you.

After the initial conversation, keep your children in the loop. Let them know how it's going with your health and your finances. Nobody likes unpleasant surprises. "If you have this discussion early and with everyone, you'll find there is greater willingness to cooperate," Drea says.

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