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Stepping Up to Have Retirement Conversations with Older Relatives


Many of us have older relatives that are already enjoying retirement or are just a few short years away. One of the most caring things you can do for your older parents, aunts, uncles, or other relatives is to make sure they’re all set for retirement.

A recent Federal Reserve report showed that 13% of those 60 and older who weren’t yet retired had no retirement savings or pension to rely on. Only 45% of those said they thought their retirement was “on track” (so, unfortunately, over half did not feel their retirement was on track).

Given those stats, you can see why it’s wise to step up to talk to your relatives about their retirement plans. Many aren’t saving anything at all (and you can check out other major retirement mistakes here). Whatever their situation, you can show you care by reaching out.

Relatives to Talk to About Retirement

The most obvious people you’ll probably consider speaking to about retirement are your parents. But you might also have a close relationship with another older relative: an aunt or uncle, great-aunt or great-uncle, or your grandparents.

When thinking of someone besides your immediate family, be sure to check in with any other family members. You don’t want to approach your elderly aunt without first making sure to include her adult children in the conversation. The key is knowing your boundaries—don’t step in for someone if it’s none of your business!

Timing of Retirement

Honestly, you might be reading this and thinking of someone in their 70s who’s been retired for a few years. Or you may be wondering about a relative in their mid-50s with plenty of working years to go.

Of course, it’s easiest to make a difference in retirement success by addressing issues early (i.e., long before someone will retire). But that doesn’t mean you can’t approach a loved one who’s already retired. Ask them if they could use any suggestions on retirement issues and offer up your guidance.

How to Start a Retirement Conversation

The most important thing to remember when approaching an older relative about their retirement: it’s all about them. You want to show this person you care about them and don’t want them to be nervous about retirement

One way to do this is to be humble when you bring up the topic. Don’t act as though you know it all; try to present it as something you’re learning about. 

Keep the conversation on what is best for the person. Ensure they understand that you’re not asking to be nosy or to get them to leave you an inheritance. Nope, the key here is that you want to help protect your family member and make sure they’re taken care of throughout their retirement years.

Retirement Questions to Address

Here are some of the major issues to address with your relatives regarding retirement.

How Much Do They Need For Retirement?

The question of how much somebody needs for retirement—it’s complex. We don’t know how long we’ll live, how healthy we’ll be, how tax laws may change, and other issues. Plus, the money needed depends on whether your relatives are already retired or have some years to go.

Retirement Accounts

Check-in with your loved ones about their official retirement accounts. Do they have money stashed away in 401(k) accounts or IRAs? What are the total assets available in those accounts? You might be able to do some calculations with them to help determine whether their funds are sufficient for their retirement lifestyle (current or projected).

If this is someone who is still working, they should immediately start saving in a 401(k) if they’re able. Getting as much as they can set aside in a retirement account will make it all easier once they quit working.


Unfortunately, many people who are in their later years are still carrying debt. It may come from student loans, medical bills, credit card debt, or other culprits. About 40% of retirees are concerned about paying off debt, which could definitely impact your relatives’ ability to pay their retirement expenses.

If your parent or loved one hasn’t addressed the matter of debt, you can step in to assist them with making a debt repayment plan. This can seem daunting, but do what you can to offer hope in a tough situation.

End-of-Life Planning

When planning for retirement, it’s essential for a person to also think about their end-of-life wishes. Health and finances are deeply connected, and your loved ones may need a little push from you to ensure as few surprises as possible as they grow older.


Does your relative have a will? This is one of the first legal issues most of us associate with getting older, yet many don’t follow through with getting one.

A will isn’t something only wealthy people need, so make sure that you check on your older relatives. See that they have a will, first of all, and secondly, it’s up-to-date and legal.

Having your loved ones will be prepared by a legal professional is best for your loved ones. This will detail what they want to happen to their assets after their death. Helping to get their wishes clearly stated—in writing—is a great way to ensure that their wishes will be carried out and help prevent needless tension among living relatives.

Living Wills

A living will is different from a will. It’s a type of advance directive, which helps relatives prepare for unexpected end-of-life events.

By preparing a living will, your loved ones can spell out which life-saving medical treatments they are willing to receive if needed. These can include some of the following emergency treatments, for example:

  • CPR
  • Ventilation (a breathing machine)
  • Feeding tube
  • Organ and tissue donation

Believe me, I hate to think about such circumstances as much as you do, but it’s better to consider them before they occur. Your relatives can decide what they want to happen in a variety of life-threatening situations.

These wishes being written down is essential. If and when the worst happens, emotions among loved ones can run high, making it nearly impossible to make serious decisions about someone’s life. Your relatives can have peace of mind by putting their wishes in writing, in advance. This takes much of the pressure off everyone else in an already painful situation.

Power of Attorney

Power of Attorney, or POA, is a legal document giving someone else the right to act on your behalf. When talking to your older relatives about retirement, you should check that they have a Power of Attorney on file. It’s helpful for your relatives to have one in place long before retirement, but whatever their age or circumstances, talk to them about getting that done.

There are both medical and financial power of attorney options, and your relative might appoint the same person or two different individuals to take on the roles. With a medical POA, the person named has the right to make medical decisions for someone else. With a financial POA, the individual named is authorized to make financial decisions on their behalf.

Older adults could become unable to make these types of decisions due to a decline in mental health. Again, these are awful circumstances to imagine, but it’s better to plan ahead while your relative is of sound mind and able to sign paperwork.

Long-Term Care Insurance

Check on whether your older relatives have long-term care insurance. When someone loses their ability to carry out daily self-care tasks, long-term care insurance helps shoulder the expenses of the care they need. Medicare and regular health insurance don’t typically cover this type of care, so having an insurance plan in place can be a lifesaver.

There may also be other options, such as your relative moving in with you or another close family member. If someone is willing and able to take on the burden of care for the person, that can be a wonderful alternative to a long-term care facility. Try not to feel pressured to take in someone unless you really can manage the stress, expense, and time of being a caregiver.

Essential Legal Documents and Passwords

If you are eventually the main person responsible for your parent or relative, you’ll need access to all-important paperwork. The documentation for the legalities included above, such as a power of attorney and end-of-life wishes, should be up-to-date and easy to find.

Whether it’s you or another relative who will take over in the event that your loved one is incapacitated, be sure that the right person has all the pertinent information on financial accounts and their associated passwords. You can avoid a lot of headaches and expense by keeping track of how and where to access vital legal documents, financial accounts, and more.

Caring for Relatives in Retirement

If you have the ability to offer sound guidance and a few hours of your time, talking to your older relatives about retirement is a great way to give back to the people you love. They may need a serious financial overhaul or simply a few gentle nudges in the right direction. Help give your relative peace of mind as they move through retirement, knowing their wishes will be carried out.

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