For 18 years Adrianne Yamaki has been serving corporate executives, entrepreneurs, and multi-generational families to effectively manage their financial affairs. Strategic Wealth Capital strives to develop a deep understanding of its clients, their families, and their life goals, and to serve as their primary advisor, advocate and partner over their lifetimes.
Russ Alan Prince: Why is helping adult clients care for aging parents so important?
Adrianne Yamaki: As life expectancy has continued expanding so has the likelihood that aging parents may need their children’s support. A male in his 50s has a 1 out of 3 chance of living to age 90, and a female has a chance of 1 out of 2. My oldest client is 103 and still keeps herself busy with books and bridge games!
In my practice, it is very top of mind. In the last month, three clients have reached out for advice about how to help their elderly parents, brought about by health challenges such as dementia, or concerns that their affairs may not be in order. Our natural hesitation to discuss difficult topics with those we love makes us postpone the conversation as long as possible, leading to a higher level of urgency once we do bring it up.
Prince: What are some of the obstacles clients face when approaching their parents?
Yamaki: Our parents are accustomed to independence and don’t want to lose it. For my own 74-year-old mother, when I asked about her needs she would swiftly change the topic, so we didn’t talk about her finances at all until fairly recently even though I am a financial advisor. It wasn’t until I was cleaning out her home for sale during the pandemic that I got a full picture of her situation. Many parents want to be cared about but not cared for, and there can be a fine line between what they perceive as advice versus criticism.
Prince: How do you recommend that clients bring up the topic with their parents?
Yamaki: Most clients have a good sense of their parents’ needs, as well as intuitively how to approach them. Some clients can be direct, while others need to gently check in and test the temperature. One method I have seen work is to bring up the topic with the parent to plant a seed, then circle back to check in and pick up the conversation at a later time.
Being patient is key. And leading with questions instead of advice may get one further. It reminds me of the Discovery Process that we advisors have with new clients when we are led by an open mind and genuine curiosity. Most importantly is to convey that the questions come from a place of love and care.
Just knowing where important legal documents—wills, trusts, power of attorney, life insurance policies, ID cards, passports, birth certificates, deeds, and medical records—are kept is huge. Next, I counsel clients to get names of parents’ main healthcare providers, including primary care physicians, and specialists, if they don’t already have them, as well as names and contact info of neighbors whom the children could call if needed.
If the client feels that a direct approach would not work, another way to bring up the topic with a parent is to first make sure you have recently reviewed this financial task. It’s more natural to say, “Mom, I just updated my will and wanted to let you know where it’s kept, in case anything happens to me and John. I am happy to do the same for you if you feel comfortable sharing it with me.”
Also, it’s not necessary to begin the conversations within the context of age, but just improving our financial habits in general. Setting up a secure password keeper can be a comfortable way to start. There are many keepers to choose from, with varying levels of security. Some clients worry about having passwords in one place in case there is a breach, but the benefits of consolidating passwords as well as sharing them at an appropriate time with one’s children can outweigh the risks. Adding an authentication step or other two-factor authorization is always a good idea. I began recommending password keepers after a conversation with a client whose father handled all the finances. He was in his 60s and healthy but ended up in the hospital and his wife couldn’t access any of their shared bank accounts because she did not have the logins or ATM pin code.
Many resources are available to help adult children address these needs. Organizations such as AARP and the Alzheimer’s Association have online articles and guidance for caregivers. If a client has siblings and other family members who are close to the parent, I recommend involving them early on, to not only talk through options but to build a mini-support group, to prevent burnout from what may be a long, ongoing process.
For a lot of clients, caring for their parents is one of the most difficult tasks they will face. Knowing that they can come to us for guidance and direction may help lessen that burden with practical knowledge and unwavering support, which is, of course, what we are there for.
RUSS ALAN PRINCE is the Executive Director of Private Wealth magazine (pw-mag.com) and Chief Content Officer for High-Net-Worth Genius (hnwgenius.com). He consults with family offices, the wealthy, fast-tracking entrepreneurs, and select professionals.