“Mom and Dad – let’s talk about money … your money and your retirement lifestyle.”

How would that statement go over with your parents? There’s never a “good” time to initiate this conversation. But doesn’t it make sense to start this conversation before a crisis happens?

Here are some reasons why YOU need to be proactive with your parents:

Every 40 seconds, someone has a stroke. It is the No. 4 cause of death in the U.S. and leading cause of disability. (American Stroke Association)

One in nine Americans 65 years and older (11 percent) are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease (Alzheimer’s Association Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures).

Of the 1.39 million widowed Americans in 2009, 67.5% were 65 years and older. (U.S. Census Bureau | American Community Survey Reports | Issued August 2011)

Wouldn’t you prefer to have a conversation about money before a crisis happens AND when your parents are mentally alert?

Raising the topic of money with your parents may be difficult, especially if they are and have been private about their finances. Using the right words, tone and timing can break those barriers and open the door to meaningful conversation.

Here are 4 suggestions to keep in mind:

1-Start with one-on-one conversation: Initially, conversation about money should be one-on-one. If too many people are involved it may appear threatening and set-up unnecessary barriers. If you have siblings, choose ONE representative to initiate the conversation. Make sure this representative understands the focus is on your parent’s money and lifestyle, not on their needs or inheritance.

2-Begin subtly: Instead of jumping into the topic – like we did in the opening of this post – use a subtle opening. For example, a family situation — “How is Aunt Debbie doing since Uncle Kevin unexpectedly passed away this year?” You can also reference recent news — “Did you see the special report about increasing long-term care expenses?” You can even use your situation as an opening — “We need help with our will. Who did you use?”

3-Remain respectful and sensitive: If your parents have been private about their finances, this topic will be challenging for them. Accept that situation and remain respectful. Be sensitive to their fears of possible loss of control or independence. Listen without judgment. Reassure them you want to help.

4-Be patient: This conversation will be a continual process – one of the reasons to begin sooner rather than later. Take baby steps to break down barriers. Don’t expect everything to be resolved in one afternoon. Ask questions for your parents to reflect on and discuss prior to your next meeting. Having multiple short meetings about money will be more productive than one long meeting — which can be mentally and emotionally draining.

After several meetings, reach out to experts such as your financial consultant, estate planning attorney and CPA. Your parents may be willing to speak more openly with a third party expert … and it will lighten your load. Just remember not to be this difficult when your kids grow-up and approach you about money when you’re older.

Niv PersaudNiv Persaud, CFP®, CDFA™, CRPC®, is the Founder of Transition Planning & Guidance, LLC. Her firm bridges the gap between financial planning and coaching. As a Transition Consultant, she offers sage advice in all aspects of life – financial, personal and professional. Niv does not manage money and does not sell financial products. She charges an hourly fee on a retained basis. Her services include spending plan development, divorce financial review, life strategy and professional progression. Niv actively gives back to her community through her volunteer efforts. She believes in living life to the fullest by cherishing friendships, enjoying the beauty of nature and laughing often — even at herself. Her favorite quote is by Erma Bombeck, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say ‘I used everything you gave me’.”