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Worried about your parents' retirement? 4 ways to help them prepare

If you're lucky, your retirement-age parents are well prepared for retirement, with plenty of money saved and plans in place for their assets as they age.

Unfortunately, not everyone near retirement is in such a good position. As the child of aging parents, you may be worried that your parents haven't saved enough. Or perhaps you're concerned that they haven't considered all the important questions that loom as retirement nears.

Here are a few ways you can help your parents plan for retirement as they look to the future.

1. Carefully start a conversation with your parents about their financial position.

If you've never talked openly with your parents about money, it can feel awkward to approach the subject. But right now—as they get close to retirement—is the time to bring it up.

It's possible that your concerns are unfounded, and your parents are more prepared for retirement than you realized. Or perhaps they are in a trickier situation than you anticipated. Either way, it's important to address the elephant in the room so you can help take action, if needed.

Now is also a good time to bring your siblings into the conversation, if you have any. You might find ways you can work together to initiate tough conversations and help your parents.

Not sure how to kick off the conversation? Do your best to set your personal judgments aside and empathize with your parents. And try not to kick the can too far down the road; It's better to have the conversation now when your parents are healthy and not facing a crisis.

2. Find quick wins to free up savings and look into government assistance.

Conventional wisdom suggests saving for retirement as early as possible. But even if your parents didn't get started saving as early as they would have liked—or at all—it's never too late to start building up a financial cushion.

Helping your parents find small changes now can have a big impact on their future. It's also a good idea to research on government programs that could provide assistance to your parents now and down the road.

As you help your parents brainstorm savings tactics, here are a few tips from the U.S. Department of Labor's Savings Fitness guide:

  • Check in on investments. Your parents will want to be sure they're not taking any unnecessary risks at a time when they should be eliminating risk and maximizing their returns. They can work with a financial professional who can help evaluate and optimize their investments.
  • Be strategic about timing. Your parents may want to delay retirement (and consider picking up a second job, if needed). They might also consider taking a phased approach to retirement, working part-time for a while instead of leaving the workforce completely. They should hold off on taking Social Security, too: They'll enjoy more benefits if you start tapping into Social Security later on.
  • Take stock of assets. You may want to encourage your parents to sell off certain assets—perhaps an unused vacation home, a plot of land, or additional vehicles that don't get much use. They can then reinvest the proceeds to bolster their nest egg for retirement.
  • Look into government programs. Whether your parents are relatively comfortable going into retirement or they're feeling pinched, take the time to learn about government assistance. You might be surprised to learn they're eligible for more programs than you expected. Start with the National Council on Aging's Benefits CheckUp website to learn about local programs that help seniors pay for health care, food, housing, and other expenses.
  • Find areas where you can reduce expenses. Options include reducing subscriptions to streaming services, cable TV, magazines, and other services, or limiting expensive recreation like vacations and eating out. While these reductions likely won't make a huge dent in your parents' finances, they can help free up money in the short term and slowly grow their savings over time.

3. Start important conversations about end-of-life care and estate planning.

It can be difficult to talk about sensitive topics like death and end-of-life care, but these conversations are critical as your parents age. As you discuss their retirement plans, take advantage of the chance to segue into estate planning and end-of-life care.

One question to consider: Have your parents designated a durable power of attorney and a healthcare power of attorney to make financial and health decisions on their behalf, if they are ever unable to do so themselves? Now is also the time to ask about their end-of-life care wishes regarding health decisions and funeral arrangements.

Ask if your parents have their wishes in writing. If not, help connect them with an estate planning professional who can ensure they've covered their bases.

4. Avoid derailing your own retirement goals and plans.

There may come a point where you feel compelled—or obligated—to help bankroll your parents' retirement. After all, they are your parents, and they raised you.

You wouldn't be alone: About one-third of midlife adults with at least one living parent say they provide their parent or parents with financial assistance, according to AARP research. For many people, that's on top of raising their own children. More than half of U.S. adults in their 40s are part of the "sandwich generation," meaning they have a parent aged 65 or older while also raising at least one minor child or financially supporting an adult child.

While the instinct to support your parents comes from a good place, experts warn that children should set clear boundaries about how much they can help aging parents with money. Don't overcommit if it could mean falling behind on your own obligations, going into debt, or failing to contribute to your own retirement accounts.

Remember that it's not your responsibility to swoop in and save the day. While you may choose to help your parents if you have the means, focus first on connecting them to resources and experts to help them make the most of their income and savings.

Plan for the future with clarity and confidence

It's no easy feat to address some of life's most sensitive subjects with the people who raised you. But by starting conversations early and coming up with a plan, you can help your parents move toward retirement on a strong financial foot—and enjoy peace of mind yourself.



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