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Retirement Hacks: Talking about money at the holidays? It’s not always a bad idea.


Politics and family affairs always make the top of the list for conversations around the holiday table. This season, add a little money talk, such as retirement and estate plans. 

Retirement Tip of the Week: When getting together with family during the holidays, talk about money – whether it be asset management, budgeting, expectations for the future or estate plans. 

Talking about money isn’t always easy, especially with family members. Not everyone feels comfortable discussing finances, or wants to divulge information about their current or expected situations. 

But having conversations about family finances – if even just light discussions about hopes, wishes and expectations – can make a huge impact. Adult children may not know their parents expect them to take over caregiving responsibilities when they’re older, for example. Family members may also feel embarrassed to mention a money problem they’re facing, and could miss out on helpful suggestions loved ones have to offer – such as resources to look into or a financial adviser to consult. 

See: My parents are unprepared for retirement – how can I help them?

Try starting with talks around retirement plans, or for those already retired, how they’re doing in this chapter. Parents may not want to share hard facts and figures about their finances, but they might be willing to talk about what they want to do in retirement before they start to slow down. Families can also talk about how to manage money, especially lately when the stock market is volatile, inflation is rising and interest rates are climbing as well. Although it’s a stressful time for many Americans, it may be an opportunity to broach the topic. 

Another strategy: bring up financial resources first, and share how they’ve helped you. Relatives already working with a financial adviser may want to recommend that professional to their loved ones while chatting over the Thanksgiving turkey, or show their fellow holiday gatherers the latest apps and websites they’ve been using to manage their money. (Anyone taking advice on financial advisers or apps should still vet these resources, however.) 

Want more actionable tips for your retirement savings journey? Read MarketWatch’s “Retirement Hacks” column 

Loved ones should also discuss estate plans, such as if they have wills and healthcare proxies – or when they were last updated if they do. Again, not everyone will want to discuss the details of these plans, such as who is being left what, but knowing these important documents exist will make it much easier when an emergency arises. This is a crucial exercise for aging parents as well – they may not have thought of who will be making medical decisions for them if they’re incapacitated, or the backup if that person is also unavailable (such as an equally older spouse). 

Caregiving is often an overlooked conversation topic until it’s too late. Relatives may have expectations that their children or grandchildren will take the primary role of caregiver – either for their physical well-being or the money management – but it’s important everyone be on the same page to avoid surprises. Caregiving can be overwhelming, and without the right planning on the caregiver’s part, emotionally and financially draining at times. They need to protect themselves just as much as they may want to take care of their older or sick loved ones. 

Those not willing or interested in talking about these matters during the holidays – and for some, it’s not exactly a cheerful conversation – should try and schedule a time at a later date instead. Try to get everyone who will eventually be involved in the discussion, such as parents, siblings and grandchildren if necessary. Some experts suggest making it a “fun” activity, like discussing finances over a favorite meal or beverage.

: How long should you keep spices in your kitchen? This woman has some that are 50 years old.

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