How do we have the talk with our parents about death?

(I wrote this article several weeks before the words "Quarantine Life" or "Coronavirus" were every day understandings. It seems appropriate given the nature of our world today to publish this article now.)

This is a deeply personal subject for me. I'm sure I can't type the whole thing in one sitting without getting teary-eyed.

::Deep Breath::

Ok, let's go.

Recently, ThinkAdvisor shared the findings of a MassMutual study asking adult children about their parent's finance and wishes (click the link and check out the article - it's worth the read.) Many children "know nothing" about their parents money situation and to this very day, I still do not have all the details of my father's estate. (I can almost feel the, "Whaaaat?" in your head.)

1. Why do we need to have 'the talk' with our parents?

It's obvious, but not really - all at the same time, right? I mean, we know it's difficult to sit our parents down and talk to them about their death. Who wants to have such a morbid conversation with the people who created us and raised us? Nobody does. We ALL just want to believe that the conversation will come up one day, but trust me - it won't. I know because I live that reality today.

2. What else holds us back from having 'the talk' besides the actual conversation of death?

And here is my truth.

My father has never been an easygoing listener or talker. Never. My mother died when I was only six years old and all I remember about her death is how much you struggle when your parents die. Those were hard times in 1977. I still hear about them in 2020.

However, the real issue for me (and I believe many of us) isn't discussing my 81-year-old father's death. Let's face the numbers, it's imminent and every day with him is a gift. Instead, my real issue is my father's difficulty understanding the depth of my questions.

Talking about his accounts, debts, investments, and portfolios - it's exhausting. He has a good financial advisor and I'm glad for that, but my dad grows aggravated very easily now. He gets uneasy if he can't hear you well. He's...old. And 'the talk' I'm embarrassed to say is something I should've done when he was in his fifties and sixties. (And earlier when possible, but my dad was 32 when I was can do the math.)

3. What do you do when you think it's too late?

If someone is alive, guess what? It's not too late.

Is it going to be an easy conversation? Absolutely not.

Is it a necessary conversation? Absolutely it is.

All of these seem obvious and you might be thinking, "Sheryl, why should I be reading this?" and the answer is that I am sure based on the stats inside the MassMutual report that I am not alone. How many of your clients are in the "know nothing" percentages? I bet a lot more than you originally would've thought.

PERSON OF ACTION: Make time to reach out to clients this year and just ask them if they need help having 'the talk' with their parents. Explain to them that they are not alone and that this is a very common problem in households today. Don't be judge-y when you talk or say things like, "Well if this had happened twenty years ago" because that brings guilt to the person you're speaking to - and trust me, we live with that every day. Changing one household might mean you directly change the numbers in a report like this.

Warrior on -

Sheryl Hickerson

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