New White Paper Discusses Helping Aging Parents with Financial Matters

MILWAUKEE, Oct. 24, 2016 – In a new white paper, “Talking to Your Parents About Their Finances,” Baird’s Director of Financial Planning Tim Steffen, CPA/PFS, CFP®, CPWA®, offers a road map to help those with aging parents start the conversation about financial matters and take steps to make sure their parents’ needs are met as they navigate their twilight years.

“Most of us are called to help our parents with financial matters as they age,” Steffen said. “What’s most important is to establish open and early communication, preferably before there are any signs of cognitive or physical decline, so you have the time you need to understand your parents’ complete financial picture and plans for the future.” Steffen views the process as having three stages and offers practical steps to take at each.

Stage One – Start the Conversation
Steffen believes the first stage is about communication and understanding how your parents expect to proceed through their later years. “It is hard to predict what the future holds, so it’s important to establish a dialogue about your parents’ plans and expectations sooner rather than later,” Steffen said.

He recommends asking your parents specific questions about how they would like to live once they begin to need additional help. Additionally, he suggests working closely with them to complete a comprehensive financial inventory that captures all the elements of their financial lives, such as investment accounts, mortgages and other debt, insurance policies and other personal assets. Now is also the time to explore whether your parents have medical directives or a will in place.   

“Some may be surprised to find their parents have specific plans in mind or have purchased long-term care insurance,” Steffen said. “For others who may be late to the planning process, opening the lines of communication may give them the nudge they need to plan for the future. Importantly, it can eliminate surprises and bring to light differences of opinion early on.”

Stage Two – When Parents Start to Need Help
At this stage, Steffen recommends you watch for signs your parents may need more help. “Forgetfulness is common, but when you begin to see large purchases that seem impulsive, bounced checks, a big loss on an inappropriate investment, or if a parent falls victim to a financial fraud, it is time to pay attention,” he said.  

Once it’s apparent you need to step in to provide additional assistance, give careful consideration to your parents’ living situation and ability to stay in their current home. You will also want to start talking to your siblings about the roles each might be able to play as your parents’ needs change. It’s not uncommon for one sibling to manage the finances while another takes responsibility for oversight of health care appointment or home maintenance.

Finally, you also will want to take steps to simplify your parents’ financial lives. This might include consolidating accounts across different financial institutions; cancelling credit cards, data plans, subscriptions and memberships they may no longer be using; and dropping car insurance if they are no longer driving.  

Stage 3 – When Parents Need Around-the-Clock Care
With life expectancies expanding, it is not uncommon to see parents living well into their 80s and 90s, although many of them will not be able to live independently. “When a parent is truly incapacitated, you may need to seek guardianship to handle all of their financial affairs,” Steffen said. “This can be especially hard if your parent does not acknowledge the need for help.” Obtaining guardianship requires a court proceeding and must be granted by a judge.

Also challenging at this phase can be identifying a trusted caregiver to help with day-to-day needs. Often family members will step up to help a parent who cannot afford the necessary care. “It is important to recognize the physical and emotional cost of taking on the role of caregiver,” Steffen said. “If providing care interferes with work, the financial burden can be significant.” He encourages siblings to work together to determine how best to recognize the financial contribution of family members who provide care.

To schedule an interview with Tim Steffen on this or other wealth management topics, contact Amy Nutter, Baird Public Relations, at (414) 765-3988 or For more tax and financial planning tips and insights, follow Tim Steffen on Twitter @TimSteffenCPA.

About Baird
Baird is an employee-owned, international wealth management, capital markets, private equity and asset management firm with offices in the United States, Europe and Asia. Established in 1919, Baird has more than 3,300 associates serving the needs of individual, corporate, institutional and municipal clients. Baird has $167 billion in client assets. Committed to being a great place to work, Baird ranked No. 6 on FORTUNE’s 100 Best Companies to Work For in 2016 – its 13th consecutive year on the list. Baird’s principal operating subsidiaries are Robert W. Baird & Co. in the United States and Robert W. Baird Group Ltd. in Europe. Baird also has an operating subsidiary in Asia supporting Baird’s investment banking and private equity operations. For more information, please visit Baird’s Web site at

For additional information, contact:
Amy Nutter
Baird Public Relations
(414) 765-3988

Robert W. Baird & Co. does not offer tax or legal advice.

Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM and federally registered CFP (with flame design) in the U.S., which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements.