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In Sync on Finances: Not Parents and Adult Kids


No one wants to be a burden on their kids in retirement. But how parents and their adult children view some of the more pressing issues that aging brings - such as caring for sick elders or helping them financially during their retirement years - seems to be in conflict.

Fidelity Investments asked 975 parents age 55 and older, and their adult children age 30 and up, whether the two generations talked in-depth about issues related to health and money in retirement. Many kids say they haven't discussed in sufficient detail these difficult matters with their parents. And many parents say they'd rather talk to a financial professional than their kids.

Two-thirds of children and parents agree that discussing retirement planning is important but only 11 percent of children believe they've had conversations that were very detailed.

What's particularly interesting, 24 percent of children expect they'll need to help their parents financially at some point. Yet virtually all parents (97 percent) say they don't expect to need help.

That's puzzling, since study after study reveals that near-retirees are worried about their ability to finance a comfortable retirement.

Who's going to take care of mom and pop if they become ill? One-third of adult children say they will but only 7 percent of parents think this.

Kathleen Murphy, Fidelity's president of personal investing, says avoiding these kinds of conversation "means decisions are put off until there's a family crisis, often resulting in sharp disagreements."

The communications gap also extended to inheritance issues. The study says that children underestimate the value of their parent's estate by more than $100,000 on average.

Among other findings:

  • 38 percent of children say their parents will have a very comfortable lifestyle; only 20 percent of the parents say the same about their retirement.
  • 30 percent of parents say they'd talk to their kids more openly but they're afraid their children will overly rely on a potential inheritance.
  •  40 percent of children say a top barrier to these talks is that they feel like it's none of their business.
  • 34 percent of parents say these discussions should take place near or at retirement; 37 percent of kids say they'd like to have a conversation before their parents retire or have health issues.

Photo credit: jo-h via

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