Tactfully talking to your parents about money

By Marianne Curphey

Money is an emotive subject and can cause disagreements among family members, especially those of different generations.

The differences show up most keenly between parents and their grown-up offspring. Sometimes a parent truly is headed toward financial trouble that can hurt them. Other times, it's simply a matter of the child not agreeing with their financial choices.

If you have to talk about money with family, it's best to enter the endeavour with some tips on how to be tactful, sensitive and reasonable.talk-money-family

Don't be judgemental
Perhaps you feel your parents are spending more than they can
realistically afford in retirement, and you're worried that they will run out of money and start building debt. It certainly wouldn't be unheard of: debt is a growing problem among older people, according to the debt charity Stepchange. And according to an August 2015 Old Mutual news release, an investment, savings, insurance and banking group, 30% of over-65s have debt, and nearly a fifth of those owe more than £50,000.

However, it's important not to impose your ideas too forcefully on your parents if they are struggling with money.

"People feel uncomfortable if they don't have enough money to spare or
they haven't planned sensibly around financial matters," says Lisa Conway-Hughes, independent financial adviser with Westminster Wealth Management.

Instead of trying to fight the battle on your own, try suggesting a debt counselling service such as Stepchange or National Debtline.

Show, and tell
If you are a  30-something with a keen understanding of how finance works, don't try to argue your logic too forcefully with your folks. Instead, show them what you do, so that they can ask for your advice if they want to.

"There's definitely a generation gap and getting your message across effectively is about demonstrating how things work, not just talking about it," says Jane Cox, wealth psychology expert and motivational speaker and trainer. "Make sure your use of your own money is up to scratch, and show them how you manage your money effectively."

That might mean explaining how credit card deals and interest-free periods work using real-life examples, or using examples of how credit cards have helped you buy big-ticket items or manage cash flow more effectively.

In the end, it's their money, not yours
Not everyone who spends money in retirement ends up short on cash. Lots of older people have made money from property and have a good pension. Yet their adult children don't like the idea of them splurging in their golden years.

"I hear adult children talking, not in a joking way, about their parents ‘spending their inheritance,' as though they've been banking on receiving it," says Cox. "Parents have worked for half a century of their life and they are quite entitled to spend their own pot of money as they wish."

You shouldn't expect your parents to fund you, Cox says, especially if you have the ability to make your own money.

"Often retirees have put off the fun stuff during their lives and now it is time for them to make the most of their retirement," she says.

In other words, ultimately, it's not up to you to tell them how to spend their hard-earned cash. Nor is it their responsibility to bail you out if you have overspent or mismanaged your own finances. You wouldn't want them telling you what to do with your money on payday, so respect their choices, too.

See related: Think carefully before lending to family, friend, Helping an older relative deal with debt

Updated: 24 March 2016