When I think of Father’s Day, I naturally think of my dad, who turned 90 last month. I also think about the lessons I’ve learned that I try to pass down to my own kids.
Talking to your kids
I’m sure I’m not that different from others my age. We all share the same basic values we want our kids to succeed and we want to ensure that our aging parents are safe. But, we may not always be sure how to do that.
That’s why a few months ago, we shared questions and answers just for parents. We included common questions that children from pre-school to college might ask – from “Where does money come from?,” to advice to help your kids open a savings accounts, and your working teens or young adults enroll in their first retirement savings plan.
Talking to your parents
We’ve discussed the importance of parents talking to children about money, but it’s just as important for adult children to engage their parents. That’s why we also have several resources for older Americans and their families, and offer answers to older Americans’ common questions, including questions and answers on reverse mortgages, powers of attorney, and dealing with debt.
Recent data shows that debt is becoming a bigger issue for people 65 and older. And, that was certainly the case for my dad.
After my mom died, Dad suddenly found himself in charge of the bills. He wouldn’t think of asking for help, especially from his kids. He grew up during the Great Depression, survived World War II, and worked hard to raise, house, and feed his family. But, he wasn’t used to managing the money. When the washing machine or the lawn tractor broke down, he used credit cards to pay for repairs. A few years later, when he needed a new roof, I offered to help him shop for a loan. That was the first time I got a clear view of his debt.
We got the financing and then focused on a plan to manage his finances, including reducing his debt. We opened a savings account and set up an automated savings transfer from his checking account. It was a small amount that still allowed him to pay his bills and have some fun. Then, we looked at his credit card debt, compared options and determined the best way for him to start cutting down his credit card debt. It took a few years, but we finally did it. Dad is still debt-free and has kept a small savings balance to handle household emergencies.
It’s important to talk with our parents about money, not only to make sure they’re coping with day-to-day finances, but also to prevent them from becoming scam victims.
People 60 years or older make up 15 percent of the population, but are estimated to account for 30 percent of investment fraud victims, one study says. There are other forms of financial fraud, too, from pushy phone solicitations to con artists pretending to be grandchildren needing money wired to them right away. That’s why we’re working to help older consumers and their families learn how to spot and avoid financial fraud.
This Father’s Day, give your dad (or mom) a call. If you don’t feel right bringing up the topic of money, ask for advice about your own money question to break the ice. The more you talk about money with your parents – or your children, the easier it will become and the more prepared they can be.