Many parents avoid discussing their retirement plans with their children.
Baby boomer parents need to add an important item to their retirement checklist: A conversation with your kids to discuss how your life will change in retirement.
It can be uncomfortable for some parents, but you need to prepare your children for your impending retirement. “It’s important to start financial discussions early in retirement,” says Dana Anspach, CEO and founder of Sensible Money in Scottsdale, Arizona. “If you’ve established open lines of communication, it makes things easier in later years when cognitive decline can impact decision-making.”
Here’s what you need to tell your children about your retirement:
Give plenty of notice. Your retirement could have an impact on your children, especially if you plan to move or are helping them financially. Bryan Bibbo, a financial advisor for The JL Smith Group in Avon, Ohio, recommends informing your children of your retirement intentions five years prior to leaving the workforce. “It gives them ample notice,” Bibbo says. “Continue to remind them every six months to a year.”
Share financial information. Some couples do not want their children to know the details of their finances, while others share information and even involve their children in the process. “Be more open and honest with your kids about your financial information,” says Joe Wirbick, president and founder of Sequinox in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. “That way the kids feel secure that Mom and Dad are OK.”
It’s important that children know if their parents are doing well or if they are struggling. “If I were struggling, and my son was doing well, he will probably want to know,” says David Evans, founder of Evans Financial Group in Shreveport, Louisiana. “Let your children know you are OK or if you are not sure how you will make it because of expenses you weren’t accounting for.”
Phase out financial support. Some parents have been paying their kid’s bills for years, including cellphone bills, cable bills and even mortgages. You may need to withdraw your financial support to be able to retire. “You need to cut that financial umbilical cord. You can’t afford to take care of you and them,” Wirbick says. “You have to cut that out long before you retire, or you’re never going to make it.”
Be up front with boomerang kids. Some adult children come back to live with their parents. “If you do have a child living with you in the house and you’re helping to pay for them, start coming up with a game plan to get them off your payroll. Get them out of the house,” Wirbick says. “I love having family meetings, and I try to encourage clients to bring their children in for a meeting.”
Disclose your estate plan. Talking to your children about who will inherit what can help to avoid confusion and sibling rivalry at a very emotional time. “It’s beneficial to talk about which child will be executor,” says Ben Barzideh, wealth advisor at Piershale Financial Group in Crystal Lake, Illinois. “The child who will do most of the caretaking, it’s not uncommon for parents to leave more to that child.”
Discuss your new lifestyle. A critical conversation between parents and children is how you want to live. “Do you want to live in the same city, or do you want to be a snowbird?” Barzideh asks. You might move near where your children have settled or to a place with opportunities to enjoy retirement.
It’s also important for your children to know your preferences for an assisted living facility or a nursing home when you get older. “Some want to live with their kids, some do not,” Barzideh says. Another aspect of the conversation is how you will pay for long-term care.
Prepare and share documents. There are several estate planning documents every person should have in case they become incapacitated, including a health care directive, durable power of attorney and a medical power of attorney. Your wishes should also be shared with your children. “For a lot of people, it makes sense to get a living trust drawn up, to make sure your property and after-tax investment accounts do not go through the probate process when transferring from one generation to another,” Barzideh says. “Spending a couple of grand on a trust now will save thousands upon thousands and avoid the probate fees, taxes, stress and time heirs have to go through sometimes.”
Make a list of contact information. If children are named as an executor, successor trustee or as a beneficiary on retirement accounts and life insurance policies, make sure they know who to contact if something happens to you. “That list typically includes your accountant, attorney, insurance agent and financial advisor, if you have one, or a list of the financial institutions where you have accounts,” Anspach says. “To help explain technical details, many families bring adult children to key meetings with their attorney and financial advisor. This can help adult children see that your advisors have your best interests in mind.”
Consider giving your children a list of the people and institutions you are working with. “It is good to know what institutions your parents have accounts at. It is a nightmare when there is not that conversation,” Barzideh says. “Parents pass away and kids don’t know where to start. Those are important things to go over with your children.”