Robert Mauterstock

How to help your clients help their aging parents

Your clients’ communications with their aging parents can have a big impact on their peace of mind as well as their financial plan. A family meeting is one way to improve communications, as described by Bob Mauterstock of Gift of Communication in “Breaking Down the Barriers: Helping Your Clients Help Their Parents” at the annual conference of the Financial Planning Association of Massachusetts on May 16, 2013. As a financial advisor, you can help clients by suggesting they organize a meeting. You can even facilitate the meeting, said Mauterstock.

The family meeting can break down the generation gap and the communication gap, said Mauterstock. Your clients and their parents may not find it easy to talk. Parents belong to a generation where emotions or money weren’t discussed. They may also shun the online communications favored by younger generations. Face-to-face communication may work best for them.

Family meeting participants

The family meeting should take place face-to-face and involve both aging parents and all of their children, said Mauterstock. Don’t leave out anyone. You’ll probably find that one child is the alpha child, most trusted by the parent. In an interesting twist, Mauterstock, who is an only child, looked to his wife as their “alpha child,” needing her endorsement of his suggestions.

Also involve a facilitator as a neutral party. When financial advisors act as facilitators, they can be heroes to their clients, said Mauterstock.

Family meeting agenda

Start with values, not valuables, in your family meeting, advised Mauterstock.

Be aware that aging parents want to maintain control over their lives. Tread carefully. Anything that threatens control will cause parents to shut down.

Start with the parents’ emotional issues. They are wondering:

  • How will I maintain control over my life?
  • How will I be remembered by my children and grandchildren?
  • What do I want to get done whether I’m alive or not?

Other topics for discussion include legal, healthcare, and financial issues as well as the details and location of other key information.

Other resources

Mauterstock is the author of Can We Talk? A Financial Guide for Baby Boomers Assisting Their Elderly Parents. He blogs at Among the books in his extensive resource list was David Solie’s How to Say It to Seniors.

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