My husband and I have never told our adult children, now in their mid-30s, how much money we make, how much we have tucked away and how much we spend in a year. But after talking with more than a dozen lawyers, therapists and financial advisers for this article, I'm cautiously nudging us toward opening up.
The risk of them being caught unawares or without access to our funds, should tragedy befall us, is high. The risk that they will do something unwise with our financial information seems low. Plus, they might learn something.
When a parent's finances are revealed only after death or dementia strikes, the responsibility can place a lot of stress on offspring, says Bernard A. Krooks, a New York estate planning attorney. “I see the consequences,” Krooks says. “It's terrible.” He plans on revealing his financial life to his kids when he turns 60 this year.
But there are good reasons not to tell all, too. An immature or troubled child could try to misuse your money or goad you into handing over assets you might need later. Complicated family dynamics, or just your desire for privacy, may make you hesitant to open up.
Which is to say there's no one formula for when to open your books to your kids. But the experts I talked with do have some sensible advice on the matter.
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If you suspect you don't have enough money to see you through retirement, you owe it to your kids to tell them. Perhaps you will end up needing their assistance. There is no shame in that; family members have helped one another since the beginning of time. But the earlier you involve them, the more time they have to help you find more resources and make plans.