Maggie sits down with author Cameron Huddleston to talk about why you need to have the money talk with your parents and how to do so.
Don’t put off having the money talk with your parents any longer. But you don’t have to figure it out on your own. Tune in to this week’s episode to learn why you need to be having these conversations and how to have them.
Cameron Huddleston is the author of Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk: How to Have Essential Conversations With Your Parents About Their Finances. She also is an award-winning journalist with more than 17 years of experience writing about personal finance.
Cameron’s book, Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk: How to Have Essential Conversations with Your Parents About Their Finances
To learn more about Maggie and her coaching and speaking services, visit www.maggiegermano.com.
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The theme music is called Escaping Light by Aaron Sprinkle. The podcast artwork design is by Maggie’s dear husband, Dan Rader.
Maggie Germano: 00:00 Hey there and welcome to the money circle podcast. My name is Maggie Germano and I am your host. Thanks so much for tuning in. Don’t forget to take a moment to rate review and subscribe in your podcasting app so that more people will hear about this money circle podcast and listen. This week’s episode is brought to you by Stitcher premium. Listen to some of your favorite shows. Ad-free was Stitcher premium plus. You can get access to Stitcher originals like the neighborhood. Listen, Stitcher premium is only four 99 a month or 34 99 a year, but if you use the code money circle, you can get your first month for free. Go to stitcher.com/premium to sign up today. This week I am interviewing Cameron Huddleston, who is the author of mom and dad. We need to talk how to have essential conversations with your parents about their finances. Cameron is also an award winning journalist with more than 17 years of experience writing about personal finance.
Maggie Germano: 01:05 I met Cameron at an event here in DC a few months ago and I’m so interested in the work that she’s doing around having conversations with your parents about money because I talk and write a lot about why it’s so important to talk to your romantic partner or your friends about money. But it never seriously crossed my mind that we’d need to be talking about money with our parents until I heard more about Cameron and the work that she’s doing and her book. And the more that I think about it, the more that I read about it, the more I realized this is an intensely important topic that I want all of you to learn about as well. So Cameron and I talked about why it is so important to be having these conversations, the types of things we should be talking about during these conversations. And then also how to have those conversations because money’s not always on to talk about. And when you mix it together with family and mortality, it can get even more uncomfortable. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be doing it anyway. So tune in and take Cameron’s great advice and make sure to pick up her book as well. Enjoy.
Maggie Germano: 02:29 All right. Welcome Cameron. Thank you so much for being here today.
Cameron H.: 02:33 Thanks so much for having me.
Maggie Germano: 02:35 Uh, so why don’t you just tell us a little bit about who you are and the work that you do?
Cameron H.: 02:41 I am a financial journalist and I have been for a really long time. Sometimes it almost pains me to say how long I have been a financial journalist because it just makes me feel old. But, um, you know, I, I think that, uh, you know, the of having written about a topic for so long is that I feel like I’m reluctant to call myself an expert. I, but I certainly have a good grasp of financial matters because I’ve been running my personal finance for so long. I didn’t intend on getting into this field. I had been a journalist since I graduated from college and just kind of fell into financial writing and I’m so glad I did because it has helped me in my everyday life. I don’t think I would have been on top of my finances if I hadn’t learned about them from all my experience writing about money.
Maggie Germano: 03:33 Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. It’s like you’re learning as you’re doing. Um, and so, so how did you kind of fall into the financial side of journalism? Like what was that kind of journey for you?
Cameron H.: 03:45 So, let’s see. I had been writing as a journalist for, for several years and I landed a job at Dow Jones news wires as a business reporter. But I did not have any background in business. I mean, I was a journalism major actually. I was in journalism and Russian studies double major. And I decided I wanted to stick with business writing and was living in Washington D C at the time. And American university had a program that you could complete any year, get your masters in journalism, but you could pick a specialty. So I chose economic journalism and took all of those classes that I never took in college, economics, statistics, business, that sort of thing. And I was lucky. I had a really good tutor. My husband was getting his doctorate in economics at the time, so I knew I needed help. There would be somewhere to help me, and so I finished the program in 2001 and could not get my job back at Dow Jones newswires because we were heading into a recession. They had a hiring freeze, a lot of other publications and news outlets were having hiring freezes, but Kiplinger’s personal finance magazine was looking for an editor or his website. They took a chance on me and that’s how I started writing about personal finance all those years ago.
Maggie Germano: 05:02 Well, it sounds like that was a good choice and that it worked out for you since you’ve stayed in this field ever since then.
Cameron H.: 05:09 Certainly I think it was, like I said, it’s been so helpful in my everyday life because I have interviewed so many personal finance experts over the years and learned so much, like I just can’t even imagine what my finances would look like if I hadn’t gotten this incredible education through all of the reporting and writing that I’ve done.
Maggie Germano: 05:32 Yeah. And I was, I was looking at your website the other day and reading your about section and you kind of mentioned that how, you know, your husband is in the economics field, you’ve been doing financial journalism forever and you know that’s really influenced how you manage your household and how you’re teaching your kids about money and all of those things. So I thought that was really great.
Cameron H.: 05:55 Right? My kids, my kids have heard about money from the time they were old enough to speak. My parents never told me anything about money. It was not a conversation that we had in our family. And that’s one of the reasons why I was not well prepared when I entered adulthood to manage my own finances cause we didn’t talk about it. My kids, I mean they get it left and right and it is sinking in with my daughters. In fact, they are their superstardom super smart about money. They’re 15 and 13 now. My son who’s seven, he’s a challenge and I’m not giving up, but he, he certainly a spender and he wants to have what everyone else has. And so I have my work cut out for me with him.
Maggie Germano: 06:36 That’s so interesting that that’s three kids raised in the exact same household, presumably learning the same kinds of lessons and seeing the same behavior. And that just goes to show that a lot of times it’s just kind of who you are and your personalities sometimes too.
Cameron H.: 06:52 Certainly it is cause my oldest is a natural, safer. My middle child is, you know, kind of a nice balance between spender and saver. And like I said, my son, I mean he just wants to spend money as soon as he gets it.
Maggie Germano: 07:03 That’s really funny. Well, I’m sure that all the education that you’re giving him will help him be, you know, more responsible and at least be able to kind of find a balance someday.
Cameron H.: 07:13 Hopefully.
Maggie Germano: 07:15 Uh, so I started hearing more about you more recently after your book came out. Uh, mom and dad, we need to talk and that is kind of on the flip side of parents talking to their kids about money, but it’s about kids talking to their parents about money. Um, can you tell me a little bit more about kind of how you found this specific subject and why it was important enough for you to write a book about it?
Cameron H.: 07:42 Sure. So as I said, my parents didn’t talk about money when I was growing up, so I didn’t have conversations with them. And this, um, this really proved to create a lot of problems when my parents were aging. Actually my father passed away at 61 in a second marriage without a will and he was an attorney. So really he should have known better. And I had not talked to him, you know, before, before he died to, you know, to even ask him whether he had a will. Cause it wasn’t even something I thought about. I mean, actually I thought, you know, he’s an attorney. He, he should have this in place. My mother, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease is 65. I was 35 at the time. And again, I had not had detailed conversations with her about her finances and so I had to step in and start helping her out with her finances without having any idea of the types of accounts she had.
Cameron H.: 08:39 You know, I mean nothing. And so it was so difficult having to step into that role as my mother was forgetting things. And if only I had talked to her sooner, I would have been in a much better position to, to help her out. You know, in fact, there was an account that I didn’t even know existed. It had $50,000 in it almost lost that money because it was almost turned over to the state as an unclaimed asset. And so I wrote the book because I don’t want people to make the same mistake I did. And you know, I’m sure people might be thinking, well, you know, shoot, if she is a financial journalist and she didn’t have these conversations with their parents, how can she expect anyone else to have them? And I realize that money is a taboo topic. Talking to your parents.
Cameron H.: 09:27 Seems like one of the most awkward conversations you could have. That’s why I wanted people to help. I wanted to help people have these conversations because they can be awkward. But I will tell you that they’re not usually not as awkward as you might make them out to be in your head. I wanted to walk people through how to start the conversation, what to find out what to do if your parents are reluctant to talk. And it’s based on my story, but I also interviewed financial planners, financial psychologists, elder care experts, attorneys and lots of ordinary people who’ve had the conversation, including people who had trouble getting through to their parents but eventually started getting some breakthroughs and starting to have some conversations. And so, so yeah, I just don’t want people to make the same mistakes I did. And assume that these conversations can wait.
Maggie Germano: 10:19 Right. And, and even assuming that they don’t need to happen in the first place. Cause I think like for me I kind of always assumed that like if someone is older and they own property and they have kids, if they’re old enough to have grown kids, like my parents, like of course they’re going to have a will. Like isn’t that just something you naturally have? And I more recently had that conversation with my parents and they didn’t have a will and I was kind of horrified. But now they are working with a lawyer to go through that process and make that happen. And I never would have even, that wouldn’t have crossed my mind if I hadn’t been seeing the things that you’ve been talking about.
Cameron H.: 10:59 You know, a lot of people assume that their parents had their financial act together and unfortunately a lot don’t. I mean like I said, my father was an attorney. He died without a will. And it’s not just those estate planning documents, which are important, but your parents might not have enough safer retirement. They might not have anything saved for retirement. I have seen a variety of studies that show that baby boomers that 10 anywhere from 10% to 40% have absolutely nothing saved for retirement. If there is no pension, then that means mom and dad can’t retire or they’re going to be counting only on social security, which means they might be asking you for help as they age. If they find themselves in some sort of financial crunch, they might need to be, they might ask to move back in with you. They might ask for help with medical bills.
Cameron H.: 11:51 Most likely they might ask for help with long term care because most people do not have a plan to pay for longterm care. And this is the sort of care you would get if you need help with the daily activities of living, dressing, bathing, eating. If you have all simers dementia, Parkinson’s, you know, just a whole host of mental and health conditions that could force you into longterm care. It’s incredibly expensive and like I said, most people don’t have a plan for paying for it. So what that means is their family members are their longterm care plan. You could be your parents’ larger and care plan and that’s going to affect your finances. That might mean you have to stop working or it might need mom and dad move in with you. That means you might have to help pay for their care. And certainly if you have kids that’s going to make things incredibly difficult for your family. If your finances take a hit to care for your parents.
Maggie Germano: 12:50 Yeah, that’s a huge responsibility and so many different ways. And um, you know, you’re saying that it could be anywhere from 10 to 40% of boomers who don’t have anything saved for retirement. Do you have any, did this come up in like research or conversations that like these people are assuming their kids will take care of them when they’re older, when they needed or is there kind of something else that they’re relying on?
Cameron H.: 13:18 No. So actually go banking rates, which is a personal finance website, did a, a survey, and this was probably a year or two ago, asking parents whether they expect to have to ask their kids for any sort of support. And an overwhelming majority of parents said, no, they don’t want to have to ask their kids for support. Now a majority of kids said if their parents ask them for help, they would step in and help them. So most people, unfortunately, even though they’re saying they don’t want to have to ask their kids for support, they might find themselves in a position where they do. If you don’t have retirement savings, if you, if you can’t afford to live on social security alone, what else are you going to do? You know, people, you know, I’ve heard someone say recently, um, you know, family helps family and a lot of people think this way.
Cameron H.: 14:11 You know, people don’t want to go into a nursing home or an assisted living facility or you know, ask the government for help because there is this belief among many people that family helps family. So you’d be in, if you’re just saying, we’re not counting on you for help, if it comes down to it and they’re not prepared financially to pay for all the things that they could face as they age, they could be asking you for help. And so if having these conversations sooner rather than later is going to give you an idea. If they might be asking that question someday, it’s to allow them perhaps to start doing some planning so they don’t have to ask you for help. And so if you wait until there’s that health issue or they’re into retirement and having trouble at that point, your options are so they’re fewer and people are emotional at that point. And so you’re not thinking as clearly so much better to be proactive rather than reactive.
Maggie Germano: 15:14 Oh absolutely. Cause like you were saying, if it’s, if the illness or the injury or whatever it might be has already happened, then it might be kind of too late to actually make changes and catch up and do the things that would be preventing some of that need for support. Um, and something that my, my dad did recently was, um, because these conversations have been coming up a little bit more, not as like planned and targeted as I kind of want to be, but it’s just been happening a little bit more. And my dad and I have always been pretty open about talking about money anyway. I think that’s one of the reasons I’ve always been drawn towards personal finance. Um, but he actually met with a financial advisor to sit down and go over all of his assets and understanding exactly how much money he’s kind of projected to have by the time he retires, how much he would have to live off of if he retired in like two years versus five years and what his different options are. And he ended up like showing me that booklet that they prepared for him. So I could see like, Oh these are all of his different options. If he waited this long it would be like this. But if he maybe didn’t wait that long, he’d still be okay and my mom would be okay and he gave him the peace of mind he needed. But it also gave me a lot of peace of mind, which was really nice.
Cameron H.: 16:34 You are so lucky. Really. I mean you should be thanking your dad over and over again for doing this because there are parents who will do that. I mean, I have friends whose parents once a year, every six months we’ll give them an updated spreadsheet with all of their account information, their usernames or passwords. But then you have the people who even if you bring up the word will, they will shut down immediately because oftentimes there’s a lot of shame around money, especially if you’re talking to parents who haven’t made the best financial decisions. They might be embarrassed to have this conversation. They don’t want their kids to know that they haven’t made the best financial choices or that they’re not prepared. You know? And these conversations also bring up issues like aging and death. And that can be very difficult for a lot of people to come to terms with.
Cameron H.: 17:25 I’ve had estate planning attorneys who’ve told me clients don’t want to write the will because they have this feeling, this belief. As soon as they write the will, that’s it. They’re going to die the next day. You know? And I can tell you, I have my husband and I have written her will and we had to revise it. So we’ve done it twice and we’re still here. It didn’t kill us. You know like you, your father got peace of mind by doing this, by meeting with a financial planner. It’s giving you a peace of mind. And when you have these conversations, this is what you want to point out mom and dad, I want to talk to you not because I want to know what I’m getting. If I’m getting anything. When you die, this is not the approach you want to take it all you want to say.
Cameron H.: 18:11 I want to have this conversation because I want to know what you want. I want to make sure there are plans in place to deal with issues that you might face as you age. I want to know what your wishes are and if we have this conversation I really do feel like it’s going to give us peace of mind. It’s going to, you know it’s going to help us all get on the same page and you know, have that plan for an emergency arises. And if your parents are elected to talk to you, get that third party involved. Encourage them to meet with a financial planner, an attorney and accountant, reach out to a family friend who might be able to tell mom and dad, you know, Hey, it would be a great idea if you had some conversations with your kids or maybe it’s a clergy member because parents can be reluctant to talk to their kids about this. And so they might be more willing to listen to a professional or someone who’s their own age as opposed to that person who is now an adult, but they still see as an unruly teenager with disobedient and they just can’t wrap their heads around the idea that they’re having a conversation with their child who is now an adult and really just wants to help ensure that things are in place and they can age gracefully and comfortably.
Maggie Germano: 19:32 Yeah, and it sounds like with this conversation and this topic, there’s like three difficult issues at play. It’s the money issue, which is already difficult and has a taboo and can bring up a lot of shame. There’s the death issue, which can brings a lot of fear and shame and you know, discomfort. And we just kind of tiptoe around it, pretend it’s not going to happen. Um, and then the issue of kind of the almost reversed roles of the child’s being the one sitting their parents down and being like, you know, show me your financial situation and, and like let me help you. So it’s like three tricky topics happening at once.
Cameron H.: 20:13 Yes. And that’s why it’s so important when you have these conversations to avoid creating that feeling of role rehearsal. You know, you don’t want to approach it from the standpoint of, especially if your parents haven’t made good financial decisions, Hey I want to help you out. I want to, I want to, I want to tell you what you’re doing wrong. And you know, mom and dad, you shouldn’t be investing this way. You shouldn’t be doing this. Oh my gosh. All those people he had calling you up and asking you for donations. Gosh mom and dad don’t you get, they’re scammers. You want talk to your parents with respect and talk to them when the way you would want your own children to talk with you. So you had to be very careful when you have this conversation with, even if you have a great relationship with your parents, which certainly makes it easier, but approach it from a point of respect and love and care and concern for them.
Cameron H.: 21:09 Do not look like you’re coming in and trying to tell them what to do. Do not look like you’re being selfish. Don’t be passing any judgment. Your parents might’ve made mistakes and that’s okay. There’s nothing that you can do about it at this point. You just have to figure out where they are and what they might need to do to move forward to getting a better place and it might not be up to you to offer that advice. Encourage them to meet with someone. Whether it is the financial planner, you know even a, there are free and low cost credit counselors out there. If your parents don’t have the money to afford meeting with a financial planner, there are, you know, there’s legal aid out there that can provide legal advice for people who are low income. There are so many resources out there for people that even if your parents aren’t doing well financially, they can get that third party help if they need it.
Maggie Germano: 22:03 That’s a really good point that I didn’t necessarily think about when you are starting that conversation that it doesn’t have to be the child starting the conversation, who has all of the answers and who has the solutions and can be kind of, you know, making orders around that. It’s more about like having the conversation and, and helping that person find the resources that they need. Yeah, that’s a really important thing to remember, especially if you know that your parents or your in-laws are um, proud and don’t want to feel, uh, you know, talked down to or embarrassed and you know, just kind of framing it around like, I love you. I just want to make sure that you’re okay and um, like that everybody knows kind of what’s going on.
Cameron H.: 22:51 Exactly. Exactly. One of the first things I did with my mother when she was starting to have memory problems I encouraged her to meet with an attorney because I knew that she had to get in quickly and get her, we’ll update him. Her power of attorney or her living will. You had to be mentally competent to sign these documents and so that’s one of the real key reasons why it’s so important to have these conversations with your parents sooner rather than later because if something were to happen, if they had a health issue and they were in the hospital at that point, it can be too late. If they are no longer mentally competent to sign these documents. And I think most people know what a will is. I mean it spills out who gets what when you die and if you die without wine, your state has a will for you and know if your parents are elected to get a, well this is something you want to point out to them.
Cameron H.: 23:42 You know mom and dad, if you don’t put your wishes in writing and a legal document, then a judge is going to decide who gets what and your things. You know even if you don’t have a lot of things, they might not go to the person you want to receive them, but I think even more important than that will is the power of attorney document. This spells out, this lets you name someone to make financial decisions for you if you no longer can. I knew I had to get my mom to name a power of attorney because with her alzheimer’s diagnosis, she was not going to be able to continue managing her finances on her own. She named both me and my sister and you can name more than one power of attorney and she also updated her living will, which those that was sort of end of life care you do or do not want.
Cameron H.: 24:30 Do you want to be on life support? Do you want to have a feeding tube? Do you want to be resuscitated? And it also lets you name someone to make healthcare decisions for you. In some States. This is called an advanced healthcare directive in Kentucky where my mom is, it’s called the living will having these documents in place have, it’s been so valuable. And that meeting with the attorney was awesome too because she suggested other things that we should do. She said, you need to go to your mother’s bank and get you on her account as a representative payee. So we did that. And again, coming from that third party, that advice made it I think easier for my mother to get on board with it. And granted she did not push back. It was very easy for me to get her in to meet with the attorney.
Cameron H.: 25:16 But having someone say, this is the next step you should be taking, made it easier to get her to take that step. And it helped me because you know, it let me know what I needed to be doing to, even though I write him up personal thing, I said, it doesn’t mean I know everything about it and sometimes you know, you don’t learn these things until you’re in the middle of it. And so, you know, we, we went to the bank, put me on her account. If I had not been named her power of attorney before, her memory really declined. She was no longer mentally competent. I would have had to have gone to court to become her conservator. That means putting her on trial, hiring an attorney for her, for me, getting a doctor to evaluate her and maybe a couple of doctors. It would’ve been spending thousands and thousands of dollars and months in court to prove she was known her competent to be named her conservator.
Cameron H.: 26:09 And then I would have had to file a report with the court every single year detailing how I managed your finances, how I spent her money as power of attorney. I don’t have to do that. I take the document that I have and you have to have the document, you know. So if mom and dad are reluctant to give you that sort of power, you just simply say to them, look by, by signing this document and naming someone, you’re maintaining control and you’re picking who you know, someone you trust the most to make these decisions for you. But guess what, mom and dad, I can’t do anything with your finances until I actually had that document. So put it someplace safe and tell me where it is and under what circumstances I can get it because I couldn’t just walk into the bank and say, Hey, I’m my mom’s fab attorney.
Cameron H.: 26:56 They’re not going to trust me. I have to produce the document. So I, you know, I, I show it to the bank, I fax it to the financial institutions that are not where we are locally and they have an a file. Sometimes you have to fill out additional forms, but that’s it. You know, once they know that I’m the power of attorney, they will communicate with me. I have access to those accounts, I can make decisions for her. With the conservator. Like I said, you had to file a report with the court every year. So you know, if your parents are reluctant to give this authority to you or a sibling, you know, let them know, Hey mom and dad, if something were to happen, I wouldn’t be able to access your bank account and pay your bills for you unless you had already made me power of attorney. The doctors wouldn’t talk to me. If you had named me their healthcare power of attorney and then what are we going to do? I mean, how are your, how are your bills going to get paid? And I’m going to have to go to court. It’s been thousands and thousands of dollars and most people don’t realize this because how would you, they don’t teach you this in school.
Maggie Germano: 27:58 Yeah, that’s what the thing is like. Like you mentioned, most people don’t know how this works until they’re already going through it. And by then they couldn’t have avoided any of it because how would they have known? And you’re not really gonna learn it unless you’re a going through it. You’d know someone who has gone through it or if you’re reading a book like yours and listening to these kinds of conversations. And so it’s also a matter of yeah, bringing to the forefront the importance of planning ahead and getting these documents in place to prevent, like you were saying, tons of money being spent on court costs and in lawyers fees. Um, and also just the pain of that process. I’m sure it’s the emotional turmoil that gets added on top of, um, just the stress and financial investment and all of that.
Cameron H.: 28:49 Certainly, I mean stressful for everyone involved and it can be avoided. As awkward as these conversations might seem. Truly the consequences of not having them are far worse. And that’s why I really want people to define a way to start talking to their parents. And there are, there are a variety of ways that you can do that. Don’t make it quite so awkward. You could talk about the, what his scenario was. I had a friend who did this recently and it was so simple. All she did was say to her mother, who lives alone because her parents are divorced. She said, mom, what if something were to happen to you and you were in the hospital? How would I pay your bills? What would that look like? And her mom said, you know, that’s a great question. I never even thought of that. And so she went home and started making a list for her daughter of all her accounts and how to access them.
Cameron H.: 29:41 It was as simple as that. Talking about that, what a scenario. You could tell a story about a friend, you know, maybe a colleague whose parents died without a will and what a nightmare it was for the family. Or you know, a friend who had to stop working to become a caregiver because there was no longterm care plan. If you are still young and in your 20s or 30s you could ask your parents for advice because what do parents love to do? They love giving advice to their kids. And so it, it, it removes the awkwardness. If you go to them and say, Hey mom and dad, you know, I just started a new job and I’m being offered all these benefits at work, you know, can you help me sort this out? And their answers are going to give you a clue about what they have done.
Cameron H.: 30:26 They might say, Oh yes, you definitely need to be contributing to a retirement account. And then if they offer supplemental life insurance, go for that too. And yes, you need, you know, you need healthcare and or they might look at you with a blank stare and then you think, okay, we need to, we need to talk some more. I need to step in and help my parents out, but yet I have to do it delicately. And so then saying, Oh, well, you know, if you weren’t saving for retirement, what’s gonna allow you to retire? Are you planning on retiring? Keep the conversation going. You know, depending on the responses your parents give you don’t just, you know, let them give you an answer and say, Oh no, I don’t have retirement savings and let it stop at that, you know, keep pushing. But be delicate. You don’t want to nag them to the point where they’re going to get angry and shut down. And these conversations can take time. I mean you might have to try several different approaches and maybe you’re not even the right person to have it. You might have a sibling who is closer to your parents and we’ll have more luck having this conversation with them.
Maggie Germano: 31:36 Yeah, I was thinking about that too because sometimes it will depend on the relationship you have with the person. Um, maybe, you know, understanding personalities and the different types of approaches that might be better. Like you, I really loved the example of asking for advice because if you know that your parent really loves being the one who knows things and can depart wisdom and they get defensive and insecure if it seems like they don’t know what they’re talking about, coming with that approach can be really great. So I think it’s a matter of just understanding the prayers of the people that you’re dealing with and then taking the approaches that you think might be a little bit more delicate, like you were saying. And not trying to force the entire beginning and end of the conversation at once.
Cameron H.: 32:23 Right? Yeah. Right, and I will add too, because you know the holidays are coming and people are probably thinking, this is the perfect time. I’m going to like sit down and Thanksgiving, we’re all going to be there and I’m going to start asking my parents questions. Don’t do that. Don’t, don’t do it during the middle of a holiday meal because there can be people there who don’t need to be part of the conversation. People might be drinking and the conversation might get a little out of hand tempers might flair if, if the holidays are really the only time that you get to see your parents face to face or your siblings are there. I think it’s okay to wait until the day after the holiday gathering or at least after the meal to let your parents know that you want to have the conversation and you’d like to schedule a time to talk to them.
Cameron H.: 33:12 Don’t do it during the actual holiday because like I said, you know, holidays can be stressful in that you don’t want to add this conversation into the mix to make it even more difficult. Just let them know you want to have the conversation and plan for a time when you can do it, when you’re not going to be rushed, when everyone’s going to be calm. And you know, ideally you can do it face to face. That’s great. But if you have to use Skype or do it over several phone calls, do whatever works best for you.
Maggie Germano: 33:40 That’s a really good point too. I like that because this is something that’s been on my mind a lot with not my parents, but my inlaws and how, um, we don’t really talk about money with them a lot in general. It’s not something that’s like super prevalent in their family. Um, but as like I’m getting older as they’re getting older, as I’m learning more about these kinds of things, I feel like we, it would make me feel a lot better if I understood their financial situation. And like you were saying, you don’t, that at least we would be aware if they were going to need to rely on us in some way if something were to happen. Um, and so I was like, Oh, we’re hosting Thanksgiving. Like that would be a perfect time to, to bring up that conversation. Um, but, but so that’s some good advice of like, you know, it’s not during Thanksgiving dinner, it’s maybe the day after.
Cameron H.: 34:30 Yes. Yes. Don’t do it, don’t you? No, no, no, no. Please don’t say pass the Turkey and let’s, let’s talk about your legal documents. Talk about your retirement savings.
Maggie Germano: 34:40 Yeah, exactly.
Cameron H.: 34:41 You know, it’s something else I would point out too, is that these conversations aren’t so much about dollar amounts, which is what makes people really uncomfortable. You don’t need to know how much is in your parent’s bank account, but you do need to know where they bank. You know, you do need to know if they have, you don’t necessarily need to know how much retirement savings they have, but do they have a plan? And at least initially it should be. You should be talking about these bigger picture issues as opposed to getting into the nitty gritty. Now, ideally you want to get as many details as possible from your parents because if they do need to rely on you as my mom has, you have to know everything, everything or else there can be accounts that slip on your radar and you almost, you know, lose thousands of dollars, that sort of thing.
Cameron H.: 35:32 Um, and so sometimes you can ask your parents instead of telling you this, ask them to write it down for you and put it someplace safe with those legal documents and tell you how to get it. If you can’t access it, it’s not going to do anyone any good. So let them know, Hey look, I get it. This is uncomfortable. This is kind of awkward. Put it in writing for me. And you know, if you make changes to your accounts, you know, please update that document, put it someplace safe and just tell me how to access it and when I’m allowed to access it. And this lets your parents maintain control, which can often be why they don’t want to have the conversation because they feel like they’re giving up that control.
Maggie Germano: 36:14 That makes a lot of sense. And who with financial accounts and independence, those are the kinds of things that we hold dear and I’m sure as people get older, the threat of that maybe being taken away from them can feel even more uncomfortable and frustrating. So yeah, making sure that bed, it’s like, no, no, you’re maintaining control. This is yours. Until there is a moment where I actually need to be able to step in
Cameron H.: 36:41 and you could say, you know, they’re may never come a time when I have to, but at least we have a plan and you know when, when you are no longer here with us, then they’ll still be that at accounting, that list of everything. And so all those things that you worked so hard for, nothing is going to be forgotten. There won’t be the stocks and the shoe box under the bed that we accidentally tossed out because we didn’t know where you’re there because you got this list and it’s going to make things easier at an incredibly difficult time if we know everything that you have. So you know, you, you will have to get involved with your parents’ finances one way or the other when they’re living or when they die. Being prepared will make it easier as we’ve already said.
Maggie Germano: 37:32 Right? And if they do die, there’s already that, that sadness that lost. You’re going through this, this heart ache time and you have to presumably be planning a funeral and making arrangements like that if on top of it, there isn’t like a state documents and a list of all of those assets where that you were, you actually know what needs to be done and who gets what and all of that. That just adds an extra layer of stress on top of an already painful time. Um, so you, you were talking about the estate planning documents, the different documents that are required there. Um, you talked about understanding where your parents are banking. Are there other thing, other pieces of information that we should be asking our parents about or at least knowing and understanding?
Cameron H.: 38:27 Yes, and that I’ve, I’ve alluded to this and it’s the longterm care issue, which is huge because adults nearly are half or more adults who are age 65 already will need longterm care at some point in their life and the average length of longterm care that people get is three years. The average cost of longterm care in an assisted living facility in your home with a home health aid currently is about $4,000 a month a month. If you want a room and a skilled nursing facility, it’s going to cost twice as much. It’s incredibly expensive and Medicare does not pay for longterm care. Surprise.
Cameron H.: 39:19 I think a lot of people don’t realize this. They assume, you know, I’ve got Medicare, it’s going to cover my medical expenses. If you have a stroke and you have to go to a nursing facility for rehabilitation, it will pay for that short term care. But if you have Alzheimer’s, if you are in a wheelchair and can no longer care for yourself physically and you have to be in assisted living or you have to hire someone to come into your home to help you out, Medicare does not pay for that longterm care, Medicaid will. But you have to have very limited income. You have to have very limited assets and you have to, it does not typically pay for an assisted living facility. It can pay for someone to come into your home. It will pay for the skilled nursing care, but only in a Medicaid approved facility.
Cameron H.: 40:07 And so it’s not that simple, uh, to, to qualify and to get Medicaid. It’s certainly there for you if you need it. And that is certainly an option for people that they need to be aware of. So Medicare doesn’t pay for it. What does pay for longterm care insurance? Unfortunately, long term care insurance is not cheap either. And you need to be in good health to get a policy that is even remotely affordable. So ideally in your 50s if your parents are already in their sixties but they’re still in good health, they might be able to get a longterm care insurance policy for a good rate. If they’re in their seventies they’re having health issues, they’re not going to qualify for longterm care insurance. And so your options are much more limited. There are life insurance policies that have longterm care benefits. Again, it’s not, this is the whole life insurance we’re talking about, not the term life, so it’s more expensive.
Cameron H.: 41:07 You know, another option is the reverse mortgage and, and I, I mentioned it in my book I, that would not be your first choice, but it is an option if you have enough equity in your home and there’s not going to be a surviving spouse who’s going to be living in that house, you can rely on the equity you have in your home and get the reverse mortgage to help pay for your longterm care if you want to stay in your house and have care in your home. So there are some options out there, but it takes planning and you need to be looking into these options before there’s an issue because of that point. Again, it can be too late. But like I said, most people don’t have any sort of plan for longterm care. So the kids or other family members become their longterm care providers.
Cameron H.: 41:57 And that can be a full time job. It really can. You know, you think, Oh, you know, you know my mom, she’s in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Well you don’t want to leave someone with dementia at home alone. So if you have to go to work, there has to be someone there to care for that parent. And that might mean if you’re, you know, already in your forties for example, or your 50s and you’re thinking about downsizing, you might not be able to downsize because mom and dad might need to move in with you this, this really needs to be part of the conversation, this longterm care topic. And it can be very difficult because no one wants to have to think about a time when they have to rely on someone else to provide their care. So you have to be, you know, you have to of course be very respectful that your parents don’t want to have to think about this.
Cameron H.: 42:54 It is a difficult conversation and actually one of the ways you can start it is by talking about longterm care insurance. Mom and dad, have you, have you ever heard about longterm care insurance? Have you ever looked into it and they might say, no, I don’t know what it is. Even if they don’t qualify for it, you know, even if they, you know, or they can’t necessarily afford it, it’s going to get them to start thinking about it. And this is, you’re talking about a financial product. So if there’s not so much emotion attached to it as opposed to saying, Hey, mom and dad, what’s going to happen if you have Alzheimer’s and you need someone to take care of you, then they’re going to be like, wait a second. What? That’s going to make it a lot more difficult to start having a productive conversation as opposed to saying, Hey, there’s a product out there that can help pay for your care if you need it.
Cameron H.: 43:43 Did you know that Medicare doesn’t pay for longterm care? Email them an article that you’ve read about it, about the high cost of longterm care and now I just found this article, did you know that longterm care is so expensive or did you know that this percentage of adults would typically need longterm care? It’s kind of like using the third party, using that, sending them that article or something you’ve read to get the conversation started. But this, this can certainly take a lot of planning and you know, even if your parents don’t have that insurance, maybe they have retirement savings they can use, maybe they have the equity in their home, maybe they can move in with you or there’s another family member. But figuring out what those options are in advance will make it easier when or if they do start having issues and need help.
Maggie Germano: 44:35 Yeah. Because I think that that, that kind of gets down to the meat of it, right? Where it’s not necessarily like, Oh, we’ve had this conversation and now we’re going to find all this money that’s available to totally support you until you do die and everything will be fine. It might just be a matter of what are the options, what might we actually end up having to do so that everyone is kind of on the same page with their options. Whether it is, okay mom and dad, they’re probably going to have to move in with us at some point. And what is that actually gonna look like? What will that take for us to make that happen so that there is that time to start preparing and planning for that.
Cameron H.: 45:19 Yeah. It’s certainly another way to approach it is by saying, you know, mom and dad, if you ever were to need care, would you want to get that care in your home? Are you okay being in, you know, an assisted living facility where you can get around the clock professional care and helping them realize what sort of care is available. You know? And if they do say, well of course I’d like to get care of my home, then the next question or the next thing to discuss would be, okay, well do you think you can get that sort of care if you ever need it in your current home? Is it set up? If you’re living in a two story house, mom and dad, it might be difficult for you to get up and down the stairs. Would you be able to get into the bathtub?
Cameron H.: 46:04 You know, are you, you know, way out in the country, not close to anyone else in case you fall on someone needs to get to you and help you quickly. So you might be able to start that conversation, make it in to think about their current living situation and perhaps suggesting that they look into downsizing now, which has a couple of benefits. You know, first of all, if they move into a smaller house or even an apartment, it can save them money. If they’re living in a really big house and just letting your parents know, look, you know it’s okay because it’s okay if you sell the family home, I’m not going to be upset. This is about you and making sure that you’re in a place that’s going to be the best place for you as you get older. I think a lot of times parents might feel this strong attachment to their home and it’s because you know they have memories there but they also might feel guilt and feeling that home because, Oh my gosh, my kids are counting on me to host the holiday meal and if you let your parents know it’s okay, it’s okay mom and dad, we can do it or we’ll figure out a way to do it, you know, we’ll, we’ll, we’ll rent a space if we have to.
Cameron H.: 47:10 The key is to make sure you’re in a place that’s going to suit your needs as you get older. And if you really want to be able to age in place, we have to find the right place for you. So that’s another way you could approach the conversation to make it a little easier and to get them planning perhaps by downsizing sooner rather than, and taking that extra money and setting it aside in savings.
Maggie Germano: 47:33 Yeah. And again, really putting the love and the care and the concern at the top of the list and giving them permission. I mean, you don’t have to give them permission, but showing them like it’s okay if you need to do what you need to do. Right.
Cameron H.: 47:49 Because when my mother was, I mean I was making decisions for my mother about her care because we hadn’t had those conversations and she was no longer able to make them. And I hated being in that position of having to decide for her. And I, you know, honestly the first step we did after letting her stay in her home for a while and hiring someone to drive her, hiring someone to help her out during the day. Um, and after coming to the point where we, I could see that she could no longer take care of her house by herself encouraging her to move in with us, but focusing on all the positives, mom, you get to spend time with your grandkids, I’ll make meals for you. And fortunately our house had a separate department so she still maintained some independence, but we had someone there to help care for her.
Cameron H.: 48:36 And I was, you know, giving her medicine and making meals for her to, um, by the time she needed to be in assisted living, I would have the conversation with her and she would forget it. And so I that that decision was entirely on my own picking a place that I thought would be best for her, but knowing she needed round the clock professional care, it was difficult if I had talked to her sooner about, you know, where she was comfortable getting that care with what she would like, I would have felt better about making that decision, you know, and letting your parents know this should be your decision, not mine. And you know, encouraging them to start thinking about these things so that again, they maintain that control.
Maggie Germano: 49:19 Yeah. I think that’s a really great way to frame it and a really great way to think about it, right? That it’s about caring for your loved one and making sure that their best interests are always being put in the front of everything and that they’re able to make their own choices in their own decisions, both for them and for you, who’s the one who might have to end up making those decisions for them so that everybody feels like everyone was respected and that their wishes were carried out. Yeah. Oh yeah. That’s a lot to think about. And, but it’s also important and, and like you were saying earlier, it doesn’t all have to get sorted out in the first conversation. It can be a series of conversations
Cameron H.: 50:07 certainly. I mean, just take that first step and you might be surprised because your parents might say, I’m so glad you asked. I’ve been meaning to have this conversation with you. I’ve actually had several people, older adults who reached out to me since writing my book saying I want to have this conversation with my kids, but they don’t want to have it. I’m having a hard time getting through to them. So you might be very surprised your parents might be incredibly open to having this conversation. You know, like I said, there will be some parents who are going to push back and you might never be able to get them to open up, you know, and you just have to accept that you, you’ve tried your hardest and if you know, it looks like they’re doing well financially, then you know, hopefully they have things in place.
Cameron H.: 50:54 If they’re not doing well financially at that point, you either have to prepare your finances to help them out if you want to or to prepare yourself emotionally for having to say, no, I can’t afford to help you. I would like to be able to, but I’m just not in a position to, you know, if they’re refusing to talk to you and they don’t want to make any sort of plan, um, which is tough, but you have to remember that your finances have to take priorities, especially if you have kids. You can’t continue this cycle by jeopardizing your finances to help your parents out because then your kids are going to be put into that same situation with you.
Maggie Germano: 51:32 That is a really, really good point. And I think that’s not something that is talked about very often. Um, so yeah, putting your own finances as the priority, but at least knowing that if you took the step to have these conversations that you did what you could, whatever the outcome ends up being.
Cameron H.: 51:50 Yes.
Maggie Germano: 51:52 Great. So is there anything else that you want to make sure that listeners take away from this conversation?
Cameron H.: 51:58 Just don’t wait. Don’t wait. Don’t, don’t expect that there will be some magic moment when this conversation can happen. I mean, it can, you know that your parents might say something and they’ve opened the door to the conversation and you just need to jump right in. But don’t, don’t wait for the health issue. Don’t wait for an emergency to arise. Start these conversations as soon as you can. You might have to take it one step at a time, but the sooner you start, the better off you will be.
Maggie Germano: 52:33 Yeah, that’s so important. Um, and then is there anything aside from your book that you want to make sure to promote to listeners?
Cameron H.: 52:42 Well, if you do go to my website, which is Cameron huddleston.com. I have a couple of free resources there that you can use. I’ve got a a scam red flag sheet that you can print out and give to your parents. It can start the conversation. It’s one way to do it. Say, Hey mom and dad, I found this online, you know, hanging out by the telephone, hanging up on the refrigerator. Just as kind of reminder, if you get a call like this that you know it’s a scam or I also have, I have a downloadable fill in the blank form that you can give to your parents where they can put all that financial information. I mean they can include everything down to you know, who they want to get their pets and who their, you know, financial professionals, professionals are and um, you know, what their wishes are even. So it’s very comprehensive document that you could print out and give to your parents and ask them to fill out for you.
Maggie Germano: 53:32 Oh, I love that. I can’t wait to download both of those and I will link to those in the show notes as well so that everyone has easy access. Uh, and how can listeners get in touch with you?
Cameron H.: 53:41 So if you go to cameronhuddleston.com you can contact me that way. And on my site there are links to all of this social media sites that I’m on, Twitter and Facebook and so you can interact with me on social media too.
Maggie Germano: 53:54 Great. Well, thank you so much for having this conversation with me today. I could literally talk about it for hours and ask so many followup questions and it’s, it’s such an important topic, so I really appreciate you writing the book and also continuing to have these conversations about it.
Cameron H.: 54:11 Well, thank you so much for having me on.
Maggie Germano: 54:14 Thanks for tuning in to the money circle podcast this week. Make sure that you rate, review and subscribe so that you never miss an episode. It might not seem all that important, but subscribing and rating actually helps to get the money, circle podcasts in other people’s ears. If you’d like to get more connected with money, circle or with me. There are lots of ways you can do that. To join the free Facebook group, visit facebook.com/groups/moneycirclegroup. To stay informed of any upcoming events, subscribe to my weekly newsletter at maggiegermano.com/subscribe. If you’d like to join the virtual money circle membership group, visit Maggiegermano.podia.com/inner-circle. To learn more about my financial coaching services, my speaking and workshop offerings, or just to read my blog, visit Maggiegermano.com. You can also follow me on Instagram and Twitter @Maggie Germano. Thanks so much for listening. Bye.
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