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How to talk to your parents about their finances, retirement plans

For many children, talking about money with their parents is taboo. From paying for parents’ everyday expenses to helping plan their retirement, though, millennials will be affected by whether their parents have enough money to retire comfortably or not.

For many children, talking about money with their parents is taboo.

From paying for parents’ everyday expenses to helping plan their retirement, though, millennials will be affected by whether their parents have enough money to retire comfortably or not.

Talking about money is important.

Simply from a familial perspective, most children realise that their parents have given them a lot and want to make sure they can enjoy their golden years.

Despite those good intentions, there’s a lot to worry about.

Only about 20 per cent of young Singaporeans believe their parents have enough savings to finance their retirement, based on a recent survey commissioned by insurer NTUC Income. Equally or more worrying, 67 per cent of parents said that they expect to outlive their savings.

Talking to your parents about money is a challenge. As renowned financial planner Dave Ramsey explains it, it is perhaps the only topic that will cause more awkwardness than Miley Cyrus at the MTV Video Music Awards.

Parents are our teachers and are supposed to know about their finances, so talking about the taboo subject of money may make them think their children are saying they aren’t doing a good job.

Parents may also want to maintain their privacy or shield their children from financial difficulties they are having.  

Not knowing the real status of a parent's retirement nest egg and their plans can, however, cause even more anxiety. Talking with your parents is something you need to do.

And even though it might seem too early to start the conversation if you are in your 20s or 30s, parents in their 50s or 60s may need extra time to build up their savings if they don’t have enough. Talking about it earlier can give them time to prepare.


Uncomfortable as starting a discussion may seem, it is essential. Children need to explain that their parents’ well-being is a key part of their financial plan and that they don’t want their parents to struggle during retirement.

One way to start the conversation, financial website MarketWatch suggests, is to be open yourself.

If you tell your parents about your own financial situation and perhaps ask them for advice, parents may start telling you their own plans.

Asking your parents about what they want to do in retirement can be another way to begin a conversation. Once you understand their desires, you can talk about how they can achieve their dreams and move on to a larger discussion about their financial situation.

Maggie Bonecutter, a writer at financial management mobile application Namu, also suggested making sure your parent isn’t “HALT” — Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired — when you talk with them.

Find a quiet time to talk, bring up the topic, and position the approach as an offer to help.

One essential part of the discussion is to reassure your parents that you have no intention of taking control or of disrespecting their wishes.

If it is too hard to start the conversation on your own, a financial planner can help kickstart the conversation, especially if you and your parents have different financial philosophies.


The goal of the conversation is to figure out what needs to be done to help them plan and make sure your parents have a comfortable retirement.

Once you know where your parents are financially, you can develop a game plan.

You will need to find out when your parents intend to retire, or how long they want to continue working.

You can also talk to them about what they want to do in retirement, whether it is cooking or a hobby or spending more time with their grandchildren or travelling.

Once you know when or whether they plan to retire and what they want their lifestyle to be, you can start to figure out how much they need for retirement.

An online tool such as insurer Aviva’s retirement planner can help with calculating the amount your parents will need every month. You can then help figure out whether their Central Provident Fund and savings will give them the income they need.

If they don’t have enough, you can develop some ideas, either on your own or with a financial planner, and talk about them with your parents.

Again, phrasing it in terms of how you are looking at similar things, albeit for far longer in the future, can ease the conversation.

Once that basic step is done, you can ensure that other financial arrangements are in place.

Make sure your parents have wills, for example, and see that they review them regularly.

Find out what insurance coverage they have and whether they need more or less.

Ask where your parents' financial records are so you can retrieve them if needed.

And while it may be more difficult to discuss, you can also ask how your parents would like to have their finances managed if they can no longer do it themselves, whether they rely on you or someone else.

Difficult as it may seem initially, engaging your parents in conversations about money and continuing them regularly can help make it easier for them to enjoy their golden years.

Related topics

money finance retirement parents millennials

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