Do you need to talk about retirement with your parents? Here’s how

10 July 2018 By Victoria Tomlinson

Do you need to talk about retirement with your parents? Here’s how image

Are you worried about one or both of your parents if they are about to retire – or have just retired and it’s not going well?

We know it can be difficult to talk about retirement with your parents. In the words of one concerned daughter we worked with:

“It’s the elephant in the room – they are going to be lost without work but they have done nothing to plan and my siblings and I have no idea how to raise it.”

However, raising the issue might feel overly critical or that you’re seeing them as unable to think for themselves. As the daughter says:

“This is the opposite of what we think, but at the moment it looks as if my parents – who are both retiring at the same time – will be watching daytime telly all day and that can’t be right.”

So how do you, as adult children, raise the issue and talk about retirement with your parents to help them through what is often a challenging time? Here we share some of our thoughts and others with expertise in this field.

A survey from financial company Fidelity found that 38% of parents say they don’t talk to their adult kids about retiring because the conversation never comes up. Chris Neiger who writes about this blog on his site The Motley Fool, says:

Some families still treat conversations about money as taboo, and some parents may not feel the need to discuss their finances with their adult kids. It therefore is important to listen to what your parents are saying when they do broach the subject.”

Time and again, we hear that what people want in retirement is purpose – but so many don’t know how to find this. As adult children, perhaps you could have this discussion with your parents and it should be a touch easier than talking about long term finances – which raises tricky questions such as where they live and who cares for them.

But how on earth do you start talking about retirement with your parents? For many of us, it might seem natural to start by making a “plan” or a list of topics to check off. However, while a plan is important, it is equally important to realise that often we may be so focused on what we want to say, the conversation becomes one-sided and we may not have taken enough time to consider our parents’ feelings.

Resistance breeds resistance, and if you approach a difficult conversation with an ultimatum in mind you probably will be met with an equal amount of challenge.

Ask and listen first to their views on retirement

Instead of going straight in with your idea of what you think should happen, it’s worth approaching it as an educator. Steven Covey would advise, “seek first to understand.”

The most effective approach to difficult conversations is to begin by asking your parent about their feelings.

“How are you feeling about retirement or having more time on your hands? Are you worried or excited about new opportunities?

It’s worth opening the discussion up to include their partner, if they have one.

Often couples avoid talking about big changes like this, so don’t be surprised if they say “I don’t know.” That gives you a chance to say, “Would it be good to have a discussion with Dad/Mum about how they see this affecting you both and what opportunities there are for the two of you?”

It’s really important to stay positive when talking about retirement with your parents. If they haven’t mentioned this subject before, you could ask how they feel about it – either retirement itself or having more time on their hands. Do they have any worries or are they excited?

Ask ‘why’ questions

In his blog on talking to people struggling with boredom in retirement, Jon Woolmore suggests using ‘why’ questions to help identify the real reasons behind the satisfaction derived from certain activities. For instance, a great way to achieve clarity is by asking:

“What would be your ideal project to work on? And why? What has to happen for it to stay ideal?”

Remember it’s not your life

Chris Neiger also suggests doing some research before you talk about retirement with your parents, especially before making suggestions. It’s their life, not yours, so take care not to give your opinions too freely, especially not to be judgmental – even if you think they need ‘sorting’.

As the children of someone about to retire, you might feel a certain amount of trepidation. As one person said to me last week:

“My mother-in-law is due to retire and we’re all dreading it. She’s going to be a nightmare.”

Her family clearly believe that without the thing that’s kept her occupied for years, she’s going to start interfering in their lives.

Time and again, people say they can’t talk to family about their worries.

This is why it’s crucial to have those open and honest conversations early on so everyone, including you, can enjoy your parents’ unretirement.

If you find that they are stuck for ideas, would it help to look at our website? There are lots of stories, videos and events to give them ideas to what they can do in their unretirement.

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Written by Victoria Tomlinson

Victoria Tomlinson is chief executive and founder of Next-Up. Next-Up supports employers with a range of services for directors, partners and employees to help them understand the impact of retirement on mental health and create a plan to use their skills and experience in new ways to ensure wellbeing. A key part of our role is to inspire people with ideas and contacts, beyond traditional expectations. A former director of EY, she is an international speaker on unretirement, personal branding and using LinkedIn strategically as well as on leadership and women on boards. She mentors chief executives and directors, start-up businesses and ex-offenders. Victoria is Honorary Teaching Fellow at Lancaster University and chaired an advisory board for University of Leeds.

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