Whether you’re giving your dad another tie or set of cufflinks for Father’s Day, take some time to discuss something important. No, not who he thinks the Celtics should draft or what kind of new grill he got. Talk to him about something deeper.
As your father ages, it’s important to figure out what kind of golden years he’s envisioning. Does he want to travel the world? Does he want to spend time with loved ones?
What’s even more important is to figure out the logistical issues. Can he afford the retirement he’s hoping for? Does he have his affairs in order? Is he prepared for the inevitable?
If you aren’t sure how to start this conversation, here are some good talking points.
Depending on your family’s background, it might be common for older generations to move in with their children once they reach a certain age. You might even be prepared for the day when one or both of your parents moves into the guest bedroom.
But if the terms haven’t been fully discussed, you should consider bringing it up. Some parents might assume that you’ll take care of them as they took care of their own parents or in-laws. Others might be interested in the possibility of being closer to their grandchildren, but be too afraid or uncomfortable to ask.
Ask your dad where he plans to live as he gets older. Does he have a senior community in mind? Does he want to stay in his home as long as possible? Or would he prefer to be closer to his family?
Discussing these issues now can prevent hurt feelings later, especially if there are multiple siblings involved and each of you is assuming you’ll be taking care of your parent.
One of the most vital questions to ask your dad is if he has a will. Now, make it clear that you’re not trying to figure out how much you’re going to get when he passes, but that you want to make sure his wishes will be taken care of. Many people create wills that won’t be considered fully legal, so their estate goes to probate.
If you can, take your dad’s will to a lawyer who can verify that it’ll be sufficient when the time comes. They’ll also be able to revise it in case edits need to be made.
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Research shows that men tend to be more aggressive when planning their finances. No matter how sure your father seems to be about his finances, talk to him about his retirement plans. Ask him what kind of retirement savings vehicle he has, if he anticipates getting a pension from a former employer, and when he plans to file for social security.
Go over all his finances with him, including his debts and other savings. You want to get a comprehensive look at his money to see if he truly has enough to live on or if he’s living in a fantasy.
Be respectful when you ask about his plans. You don’t want to imply that he’s bad with money or that he can’t take care of these matters himself. If you do get the official numbers, run them over with a financial planner. If he or she says that your father is in good hands, then you don’t need to worry. But if they say that your father won’t have enough to live out the rest of his retirement, then it’s time for a longer conversation.
How He Wants to Be Taken Care Of
Since men tend to have shorter lifespans than their female counterparts, many wives end up being primary caregivers for their husbands. That can be a problem because men don’t anticipate the amount of work it takes to be a full-time caregiver for someone, especially if they have mental and physical needs.
“Caregiving is truly exhausting emotionally, physically, mentally, and potentially financially ,” said financial planner Marguerita Cheng, CFP of Blue Ocean Global Wealth. “It doesn’t mean people shouldn’t care for their loved ones, it means we need to be proactive in discusses it.”
Talk about what kind of caregiving your father wants. If he’s still married, include his partner in the conversation. Does he want a full-time nurse? Would he be ok in an assisted living facility? If you’ve each taken care of parents before, talk about that experience.
Were you comfortable doing that or would you have preferred to outsource that work? Be honest during these conversations. If you don’t bring up any concerns you have during this time, it might be too late to do it later.
If you decide that you don’t want to be your father’s primary caregivers and there’s no other immediate family member to fill the gap, then you need to discuss how you plan to pay for someone else to have that responsibility. Many people opt to use their savings while some purchase long-term care insurance, which will pay for home care, hospice, assisted living, nursing homes and more. If possible, get a tour of some possible facilities while your father is still in good health so he can make a coherent and informed decision.
Talking to your father about these topics might be difficult. After all, who wants to ask their parent about sensitive topics like nursing homes and retirement plans? No child wants to make their parent question their decisions, but it’s important to find out what your father has decided. Pretending that they’re always going to be around will only make the end more painful for everyone involved.
Make sure to keep the conversation positive and hopeful. Tell your father that you only want to avoid any confusion and that you intend to honor his wishes. By helping him plan ahead, you’ll be letting him take the lead on how he wants his life to go.
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