Aging Parents – Preparing for the Future

Transcript: Aging Parents – Preparing for the Future

Length: 5:15

Kathleen Woodard

SVP & Region Head, Personal and Business Banking, CIBC

Thank you for inviting me here today to speak on the topic of caring for aging parents. I want to introduce you to Patricia Harrington. She was a wife, a teacher, and a professional writer. And she was also my mother. She worked as a first grade teacher during the day and at nighttime she pursued her master's degree in education, all while raising myself, my two older brothers, and my older sister. Five years ago when she went into the hospital with what we thought was a very bad case of the stomach flu, only to find out days later that she had terminal cancer and she only had a few weeks left to live, I was devastated and I felt completely unprepared. And thankfully my mother was not.

CIBC released a poll last year that had some interesting stats. The poll actually talked about the number of Canadians that have parents over the age of 65. Ninety percent of those Canadians say it's important to discuss how they'd like their finances managed in case they are not able to do so themselves. And of those, 73 percent say it's really up to the parents to start the conversation. Only 43 percent have actually had the conversation, have actually discussed it. And even less, only 22 percent, have actually taken any steps to formalize it. If any of you are thinking about your own estate plan or if you have parents and you're concerned about them as they age, I'd like to offer just a couple of suggestions that I hope might be of help to you on what can be a very difficult topic.

The first suggestion I'd offer: Have the talk. It's as simple as that. Having the talk can feel very stressful but there's a few ways to actually make that conversation a little bit more natural. So, first of all look for everyday occasions. You should also think about looking for cues. Perhaps your parents are talking about some concerns they have as they're getting older or they mention something about getting older. One other approach that some people have taken is to start the conversation by talking about your own personal situation. So maybe talk about your thoughts about putting together your own will, your own retirement plan.

For me having the talk meant having to address what I saw as a very progressive, deteriorating situation in my mother's memory. She was also trying to hide that because it was not something that she was comfortable talking about, but we were getting very worried. And so I actually found a setting. We were on vacation together. I'd taken her to New York for the very first time and I took that opportunity to say to her, "what are we going to do if this memory thing keeps getting worse?" And just in that moment she was very clear about her expectations. She wanted us to do everything possible to keep her in her home. She did not want to go to a nursing home. She wanted to be in her home that she loved. And that was very important to myself and my siblings that we had that conversation because it guided us in those final months.

The second suggestion that I'd offer up is all around protecting your assets. So there's a few things you need to think about in terms of protecting your assets, including keeping an inventory of what you have. It's really important to think about all the financial assets that your parents might have. Document what they have. Investment statements, insurance policies, real estate assets. Also making sure that your family is documenting any liabilities that they have, whether it's mortgages, lines of credit, even Visa debt. Making sure that there's an inventory of total holdings especially for many, many of our parents like to have a little bit of money in a lot of different banks.

The second thing to think about is knowing your trusted advisors. Most adults do not know even the names of their parents' professional advisors, much less having had a chance to meet them. And the third thing to think about is actually storing the documents safely. Most Canadians would keep a copy of their will and their powers of attorney with their lawyer. But then where do you have things like your insurance policy? And how about deeds to real estate, do you keep them in a safety deposit box? Are things in filing cabinets? How about even thinking about digital assets, so things like your passwords for email accounts, for social media accounts, passwords to brokerage statements, investment statements, bank accounts. So consider actually keeping a record of those passwords and you can either have a password manager or you can keep it on a USB key in a safety deposit box. But making that access available can also help.

This is a difficult topic. And it is tough to talk about. It's even harder to do something about it but by doing these two simple things: having the talk, protecting your assets, it can make a big difference. So I hope this is of help to all of you and thank you very much for inviting me to speak today.

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