Have you had “the talk” with your parents?

No, we're not talking about the birds and bees discussion you had with your mom or dad as an adolescent with raging hormones. Here we're talking about "the talk" adult children may have to have with their parents about their parent's finances.

You may find that talking about sex with your parents so many years ago was easier than raising the money issue today. Pride and "it's none of your business, we're fine" prevent many parents from having an open discussion with their children. The economy, however, has hurt not only Americans of working age but has hurt retired Americans. Shrinking investment portfolios and the collapse of home prices has left many older Americans in dire financial straits. Some have ended up with substantial credit card debt after years of trying to make ends meet. To make matters worse, their health may be deteriorating increasing their health care costs and making planning for future care needs essential.

Sometimes there are signs of financial distress. Ray's daughter Jean nagged her 73 year old widower father about his poor eating habits. She attributed much of it to his slipping memory ("I forgot to eat"). In reality, Ray's retirement nest egg was gone and he was struggling to live on $1,300 a month. He still had a mortgage on his home his real estate taxes were high. He had run up $7,400 in credit card debt in a desperate attempt to pay his other bills. His pride prevented him from telling Jean the true story – he was skimping on his food to make ends meet. He had also dropped his Medicare Supplement coverage to save another $155 per month.

The truth of Ray's situation came out only after several fainting spells resulted in a hospital stay. Fortunately, Jean and her 2 siblings are in a position to help their father financially. Meeting with their investment advisor, they were able to come up with a plan to supplement her father's income and move him from his home to an assisted living facility.

"It was not an easy subject to talk about, and there were plenty of tears" recalls Jean, "but we had to come up with a solution – both to take care of him financially but also to keep him safe. He fought us at first but eventually understood it needed to be done. I probably could have done a few things better when I raised the topic at first – I know I hurt his pride – and could have gentler when I raised the topic the first time."

Not all children are in a position to financially assist their parents. But watching for telltale signs of financial distress or, even better, initiating "the talk" may head off bigger financial problems later.

Written by Life After 65.