It can be difficult to start a conversation with your parents about their retirement. This is especially true if you’re not used to giving them advice. While many parts of retirement planning involve intimidating financial and medical decisions, there are also many other simpler ways you can help your parents approach this new (and exciting) time in their life.
How can I help my parents with retirement?
Let’s start with the good news — your parents may have retirement covered! They may be organized, researched, and ready for anything. However, most people turning 65 aren’t as prepared for retirement as they should be. More likely than not, your parents will have a lot of questions, and they may not even know where to start. To figure out how best to help, start with a discussion. For the most effective results, your parents should guide your level of involvement.
One option is to set a time with your parents to have an important conversation structured around major retirement topics like health, money, and time. Our Retirement Quick Start Guide is a good starting point. This resource provides suggestions for questions your parents should be asking as they approach their retirement.
If a formal sit down with your parents sounds like something out of a “very special episode” (or a horror movie), you may want to try a more subtle approach. Start by sharing relevant articles or websites about retirement in hopes of sparking a conversation. There’s a lot of content out there that could serve as a starting point for a specific conversation you know you want to have but may be hesitant to start.
You could also casually bring up the topic by talking about the future. For example, you could ask about their dream vacation destinations, or how your favorite yearly traditions might look in ten years.
However you decide to get started, make sure to communicate that you’re there to help. Explain that you trust them to make these decisions, and that you aren’t looking to take control, but that you think it would be a good idea to work together now in case they need you to take on a bigger role in the future.
What should you talk about?
Once you’ve started the conversation, there are a lot of issues to cover. Below are a few techniques that could come in handy.
Create a calendar with deadlines and important dates.
Use the Renew Retirement Hub to help sort through the timing of retirement-related decisions. For example, if your parent’s healthcare coverage is ending soon and they are nearing 65, you should prioritize enrolling for Medicare. You’ll need to identify their Initial Enrollment Period, which is the specific 7-month period during which he or she can enroll for Medicare without being subject to late penalties. Consider storing this, and all other important dates, in a place that both you and your parents can easily access. We recommend using an online spreadsheet or calendar.
Make a point to discuss decisions that may affect you.
Although it may sound counterintuitive, some of your parents’ decisions in retirement may have a direct affect on you. In an emergency, for example, you will want to know what type of health coverage your parents have. Although the conversations may be difficult, we recommend talking about these choices before it’s too late. These topics include:
- Health and long-term care insurance policies
- Bank accounts, wills, and trusts
- Investments, pensions, and social security details
- Durable power of attorney, health care proxy, and living will
Organize and prioritize
Going through retirement means entering into several of our country’s largest and most complex bureaucracies. In short, there’s going to be a lot of paperwork. You’ll likely need to reference these documents frequently while making decisions about retirement. Keeping these things accessible, organized, and safe will make the process easier for everyone involved.
It’s not likely that you will be there to help fill out every form. However, you can help set your parents up for success by establishing some organization early on. If your parents are technologically inclined, you could help them get started with some organizational apps or websites. Evernote and Google Drive are popular organizational platforms that can be used free of charge. If your parents are less tech savvy, consider buying some organizers or even a new printer/scanner for their next birthday or anniversary.
The circle of support
For many people, supporting their parents in retirement is a way to give back for the years of support they received as children. Whether you’re supporting your parents or raising your own children, it’s not about getting everything right the first time; it’s about communicating, learning, and growing together. Any major change in life can be disorienting, but having a consistent and reliable support system available is the best way to get through it stronger than before.