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Money Talks

Understandably, financial challenges await all Americans. An aging society — 72 million baby boomers born between 1946 and 1967 — may witness one of the greatest wealth transfers in American history as older Americans pass on inheritances to younger generations. But some who did not prepare as well for retirement may find themselves needing the help of their children or other family members.

Many times, the latter years of life can lead to changes in family dynamics. Fortunately, it’s possible to ease this time during life with proper communication among family members. A series of "money talks" is in order, and issues each family should be ready to discuss include:

Long-term care. What are the expectations of older family members, and what are the fiscal and physical capabilities of younger ones? With more women in the workforce, adult children may not be able to provide round-the-clock care for older family members — 60% of seniors will need some kind of long-term care in their later years. And with the rise in incidence of certain diseases related to dementia, some younger family members lack the capacity to provide the care, even if they have time. Understanding expectations and abilities can help alleviate frustration, guilt and anger later. (GuideStone has excellent resources that address the issues and insurance needs that surround long-term care.)

Finances. Many older Americans are simply not financially prepared for a comfortable retirement. While some cultures place a high expectation on children to care for the parents, no one should assume that is the plan. An open discussion about retirement finances can help adult children understand what will be needed of them.

Inheritance. Most adult children have something in mind they’d like from their parents: Mom’s pearl necklace or Dad’s tool collection. Have a discussion of who should get what (and who wants what) so that there are few surprises when the day comes to divide up the family’s treasures.

Last wishes. Do you want to be cremated? Buried in your family’s hometown cemetery? Don’t assume your children know (nor assume that because it’s in your will they will know how to address your last arrangements). Let someone you trust know where important paperwork is filed, any life insurance policies you have or veterans’ benefits for which you may be eligible. And talk openly about living wills, burial wishes and other end-of-life needs. Most children want to honor their parents’ wishes. Don’t make them guess at them.

Ben Franklin has said there are only two things certain in life: death and taxes. As we all age, important decisions need to be made. Communication among all affected family members will make handling those decisions much easier.