Tips for Talking to Your Family about Retirement and End of Life Issues

Ideas for How to Make the Most of This Difficult Conversation

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There is absolutely no denying that talking to your family about retirement and end of life issues is extremely difficult. You are facing your own mortality. Your children are facing your mortality and being reminded of their own. Money is also a significant factor.

It does not get much heavier than this.

However, the conversation is important. There are numerous books about how to best broach complex and emotional subjects, but here are a few tips to help you prepare. And if you are looking for ideas on what topics need to be covered, continue here.

Do You Want to Have a Conversation or Convey Information?

Think in advance about your goals for the meeting.

  • Are you completely committed to your plan? If so, let your family know that up front.
  • If you want their input – great. Let them know that you welcome their feedback and comments.

Use Notes

You should not feel funny writing down the key information you want to convey. It is okay to use notes to make sure you cover all of the topics you feel are necessary.

You may also want to take notes during the conversation to capture any ideas that you want to act on.

Acknowledge that This is Difficult

You might as well acknowledge the proverbial elephant in the room and state that this is a difficult subject. By acknowledging that fact, you can help everyone feel okay about their anxiety or nervousness surrounding the discussion.

Use Your Sense of Humor

If appropriate in your family, humor could help make the conversation easier. Laughter can always be a welcome salve for difficult conversations.

Avoid Push-Button Behaviors

Every family has certain quirks that drive other family members crazy. Try to acknowledge these to yourself and attempt to avoid saying things that add an extra layer of complexity to an already complex situation.

Take Deep Breaths

Before you say something difficult or before you respond to a comment, take a deep breath and make sure you are communicating what and how you want.

Be Straightforward

While this is an extremely emotional topic, try to be as straightforward as possible.

Do Not Ambush Your Children with the Topic

You may want to tell them in advance that you would like to discuss your plans with them. This gives them ample time to prepare.

Pick an Appropriate Time and Place

Thanksgiving weekend might not be the best forum for such a serious conversation – or maybe it is – it all depends on your family dynamic and norms. Each family is unique so choose a time and place appropriate to all of those participating.

Keep Everyone Informed

If you have multiple family members who should know this information, be sure to speak with everyone – either all together or individually. This data is too important to risk it being misconstrued in translation.

Have You Considered Writing a Letter?

Some people do better communicating in written form. If you are someone like that, feel free to write a letter. However, it might be best to follow up with a conversation.

Follow Up Regularly

After the initial conversation, it may be a good idea to check in regularly on the topics of retirement finances and end-of-life issues. Your opinions may evolve. Their ideas might change. It would be a good idea to keep the conversation open.