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Talking money with Mom

By Jennie L. Phipps · Bankrate.com
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Posted: 5 pm ET

My mother-in-law died a couple of years ago after a very short bout with cancer. On her deathbed, she whispered that we shouldn't give away her bedroom furniture without checking under the drawers.

After the funeral, we started the process of cleaning out the house. Sure enough, taped on the bottom side of the dresser drawers was more than $2,000 in small bills.

My mother-in-law was a child of the Depression, and a top-notch retirement planning expert -- before anybody ever coined the phrase. She knew how to save money, and her retirement was comfortable. But that didn't stop her from hiding cash -- just in case.

My mother-in-law also was unwilling to talk about her money. Personally, I would have found it easier to ask her about her sex life than to ask her about her finances. So, I found it a little surprising when Fidelity Investments released a study -- just in time for Mother's Day -- reporting that mothers are easier to talk to about money than dads.

The study found that considerably more moms reported having had deep discussions with their adult children about:

  • Estate planning or wills (79 percent of mothers vs. 69 percent of fathers).
  • Savings and investments (64 percent vs. 54 percent).
  • Health and long-term care topics (66 percent vs. 56 percent).
  • Their ability to pay for living expenses in retirement (70 percent vs. 55 percent).

The Fidelity study concluded that adult children who want to understand their parents' financial situations should start the conversation by talking to Mom. It sounds like a good strategy, but it wouldn't have worked in my family.

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