an older couple and a guy sitting on a couch talking
February 19, 2023

The Awkward + Unavoidable Conversation You Need to Have with Your Parents (and Siblings)

Money Matters: The Past vs. the Present

There’s no doubt about it. At some point in our relationship with our parents, things change. Hopefully, if we get enough time with our parents, we get to see them start to age. To slow down. At first it is almost unimaginable to see your strong, vital father get frail, or your feisty mother become so thin and slow. We start to see them wear thicker glasses, take more naps, and acknowledge the talk about their bowel habits and aching knees as well as the other ailments that they and those around them are experiencing.

But it also means that our relationship with caring for them and money changes too. We now can become our parents’ carers more than their children.

Do you know your parents’ retirement plan? Do you know their wishes? Have they ever broached where they would like to live when they are older? These are all topics that can be extremely scary and fraught with emotion for those going through it.


Opens to Karen on the phone to her mum, explaining how the internet connection could be reset on her iPad.

Karen: Yep, Mum, I think you have it now. Glad I could be IT support again.

Gloria: Thanks, love. I can’t stand that damn thing.

Karen: I know, Ma. But you love the photos of the kids I send on it.

Gloria: That’s true. I always take it to the club with me to show the others.

Karen: Nice. How’s your friend Beryl doing? I know she was worried about her daughter last time we spoke.

Gloria: Oh yes, she is having awful trouble with that horrible son-in-law she has. He’s trying to make her sell the house so they can buy one big enough to fit them all and have Beryl in the small in-law accommodation out back.

Karen: Oh, that’s tough. Although it might be nice for Beryl to know her daughter is right there. Even if her husband is not Beryl’s favourite.

Gloria: Oh yes, I suppose so. She’s very upset about it all. You know how emotional she is.

Karen: Well, it must be a weird time of life, where you let go of your independence to an extent.

Gloria: Yes, there’s a lot of that going on with your father and me.

Karen: What’s your plan, Mum? What do you and Dad want to do?

Gloria: Oh, I don’t know. Moving seems like a lot of work. We will probably just die here.

Karen: Really? Wouldn’t you and Dad like to go to one of those nice retirement villages? They have separate homes still, but you get assistance, and meals and cleaning help. To be honest, it would be ideal for you. There’s a lot of work for you both to keep the house up.

Gloria: Yes, it is a lot of work. Your father fell off the back step last week, banged up his knee.

Karen: I’m worried that will just get worse. I think it’s worth looking into those places, Mum. At least see what they cost and get some advice. You own the house outright. You should have more than enough. I will start making some calls for you.

Gloria: Your father and I don’t want to use the money from the house on us. We want to give it to you and your brothers.

Karen: Well, you deserve a great retirement too. Let’s talk about this. I’ll cook lunch next Sunday, and Russ will drive down and pick you both up. Nate needs practice driving anyway.

Gloria: Lunch sounds lovely. I will bring a dessert. Tell Nate that Nana said he better be safe.

Karen: I’m sure he will be on his best behaviour, Mum. Love you.

Gloria: Love you too.


Unlearning Money Narratives

Baby boomers grew up in a time after World War II. They were taught how to be frugal, how to make money spin out and live within their means. But the world has changed so much that sometimes it’s hard to get your parents seeing eye-to-eye with you when it comes to money today. But having money conversations with your parents is vital—especially as they age and you become an adult—because, the earlier you can have the conversation, the more strategic you can be in making financial decisions that benefit everyone. And this is probably the time when you will need to seek specialist advice.


Scene opens on Jane at the mall with her parents Bob and Cath.

Bob: By god, that kid over there is screaming like a banshee. I’d give that one a good smack on the backside.

Jane: Yeah, you aren’t supposed to smack kids anymore, Dad. It scars them.

Bob: Didn’t scar you any. Or are you going to tell me you are scarred now?

Jane: No, Dad, I am pretty good. It was different times than nowadays. Everyone got a smack back then.

Cath: Yes, well, I would always get told that to spare the rod would spoil the child by my father.

Bob: Now, let’s find these new parkas for the girls so I can get out of here. What is on sale?

Jane: I want to get them at the outdoor store, Dad. It’s for their camp.

Bob: They are twice the price there. Don’t be ridiculous.

Jane: Well, it’s how I choose to spend my money, Dad. Lucky I earn it.

Bob: Yes, well, I am only looking out for you, Janey. You know we want you to have money in the bank.

Jane: Yes, Dad, I know. But how about you? What’s your money situation looking like? I’ve never really asked you before, but my friend Ben, who is a financial planner, was talking about how it’s good to know what your parents’ plans are.

Bob: Did he? Hmmm. Well, I’m not up to telling some stranger about our personal business.

Jane: Well, you would be talking with me first. I would love to know what you are thinking and what you and Mum want.

Cath: That could be nice.


Taking a Trip Down Memory Lane

Jane is faced with the attitude of her parents that they don’t “air their dirty laundry” with strangers. But she is smart enough to know that asking her dad to at least start the conversation about money and the future with her was a first step. Nobody can make big decision or life choices in a single conversation. Starting the conversation with your parents at various times without making a big deal of it, and agreeing to a future discussion, is a great start. It doesn’t matter where you begin—it’s talking about things that is the start of it all.

Opening up about money with our parents can feel challenging, awkward, and uncomfortable, and that is why many people have never had a conversation about money with their parents.

Maybe you’re embarrassed to talk about it because you don’t think you’re good with money and you’re afraid of their judgements. Maybe you grew up in a house where money was never discussed and so you don’t feel like you can talk about it with your parents. Or perhaps you remember your parents fighting about money, so it’s a topic you want to avoid because of the conflict that can arise.

Choosing a Financial Lane of Your Own

Jasper grew up watching his father work himself to death. And Jasper, when he was young, decided that he didn’t want to be like his father. So he went too far the other way, to be as little like his dad as possible. He went from one job to the next with no passion or interest and not really caring what he did day to day. He would go out drinking with friends without a plan or any idea of what he was doing it for. He got to his forties and realised he didn’t have anything to his name, was living with his mum, and his friends thought he was hopeless.

Jasper had to unlearn the subliminal belief he had developed, which was that hard work equated to an unhappy life. Although he didn’t want to be a workaholic like his father, he still needed to find his passion and what he really wanted in life.

You don’t have to work hard; you can work smart. You don’t have to be like your father to earn money; you can find other avenues. As I’ve said, it’s not about what you don’t know about money, it’s what you do know—how you grew up, how your beliefs shaped you, all the things in your past around money that have become bad habits. Most people need to stop and acknowledge what these are before they can actually move forward, change things, and build new goals and better habits.

Talking with Your Parents about Inheritance

A lot of people who receive an inheritance have never even had a conversation with their parents about money, let alone talk about what they intend their inheritance to be used for. When you think about it, this is really sad, because that money has been hard-earned, and parents may have had a wish for their legacy which they possibly never spoke about. That’s why I want you to get talking about money and inheritance with your parents before it’s too late.

While nobody likes to think about dying or of their loved ones passing away, it is really important to be prepared for the future and to know what’s coming. It doesn’t feel good to talk about anyone in the family dying, and it can bring up a lot of raw emotions. We need to get real and start having these conversations because avoiding them isn’t going to do anyone any favours, especially when we’re trying to plan ahead for the future.

If you know or think you’ll be receiving an inheritance, you should definitely have a conversation with your parents about what they intend this money to be used for. I really encourage you to discuss with your parents your thoughts on how you might invest the money and what your future plans are. You want to make sure you’re honouring your parents’ wishes while using the money wisely. We should never assume we know what others want, and that goes for both sides. This is why it needs to be an open conversation.


This is an opportunity that shouldn’t be wasted. It’s a good idea to figure out how much you might inherit by talking openly about it with your parents. If they don’t want to talk about it, ask them why. Maybe you will learn more about them in this process.

You: I know we’ve never talked about this before, but I was wondering about your legacy, and what you are planning on regarding inheritance.

Your parent: I’m glad you brought this up. I’ve been meaning to talk to you about it. There’s a bit of money I’ve put aside for you and your siblings. I want to make sure it is split up evenly, so you all get a fair share. There’s a decent amount of money there that you can use toward a house deposit or a mortgage.

You: That’s so good to hear. Thank you. But what if I wanted to spend it on something else, like some other investments?

Your parent: Well, I hadn’t thought of that. What do you have in mind?

You: I have been thinking about starting a stock market portfolio. I’ve been doing a lot of research and I just need some money to kickstart it. Would you be okay if I used some of this money toward that?

Your parent: Well, as long as it’s not going to go down the drain. It sounds a bit risky. I never touched the stock market.

You: I’ve been doing a lot of research and I would speak to a financial planner to do it properly. There is some risk involved, but it can have even better returns than real estate.

Your Parent: Well, how about I give you $10,000 of the money now so you can start this, and if it works then you can figure out for yourself what to do with the rest of the money. I just want to make sure that you don’t waste it and that you’ll have a place to live, so don’t rule out buying a house one day, okay?

You: Okay, thanks for your help and support. This is a huge helping hand for me! I’ll make sure to use the money wisely.


Intergenerational Money Matters

It’s difficult to speak openly about money, but it’s especially challenging to talk about it across generations. Talking about money has been taboo with older generations for a reason. But those reasons don’t hold much weight nowadays.


It can also be an uncomfortable conversation with our parents because the conversation about mortality comes up. If we involve siblings, hidden conflicts can arise, and emotions can get the better of us too.

Karen: I’ve asked Bruce and Ray over for lunch too, Mum. If we are going to talk about money and plans, they may as well be involved.

Gloria: Oh, I would rather talk to you first. It always upsets your brothers thinking of anything happening to Dad or me.

Karen: Well, you are their parents too, so they need be involved. I am sure they will handle it. They are grown men.

Gloria: Your father is going to hate this. I don’t know how well it will go.

Karen: Well, I think it will be good for our family. Bring us together. Get the boys back involved again, Mum. I know they don’t call much.

Gloria: Well, they are always busy at work. We understand that. But, yes, I guess it would be good to see them and talk about it.


This is an extract of Chapter 4 from Vanessa’s new book. You can order it here


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Each day I wake up excited to inspire everyday people to open up and take control of their money, regardless of their history, goals, or savings amount. About Vanessa >>


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