Seven out of 10 U.S. adults claim to have major barriers that prevent their families from openly communicating about who will make financial decisions on behalf of their aging family members if they become unable to do so, according to a new survey.

The survey, conducted by Harris Interactive by the National Endowment for Financial Education found that many adults avoid talking to their children and families about planning for what they hope will never happen. The survey was conducted online among 2,059 U.S. adults.

“Americans are living longer and they have concerns about becoming a burden to their loved ones. But with aging comes a high probability that mental decline can occur and without a financial plan, the burden looms,” said NEFE president and CEO Ted Beck in a statement. “The negative consequences of families delaying or avoiding a conversation about the financial impacts of cognitive decline are too high to ignore.”

The warning signs of diminished capacity in financial decision making can take on many forms. The NEFE survey found that among those who have themselves or those who have family members that have experienced cognitive decline 47 percent have had trouble with bills, paying them late or not at all; 36 percent have had difficulty calculating simple math problems; 35 percent have made irrational purchases; and 21 percent have depleted their savings accounts.

While 86 percent of those surveyed indicated they would trust a family member to make financial decisions if they are unable to, the majority of people say there are family dynamics that are getting in the way of making this happen.

“Frequently there is defensiveness, denial, embarrassment and sibling rivalry when entering into a dialogue between adult children and a parent concerning their finances,” said Beck. “Families need to come together, clear the hurdles that limit communication, and do what needs to be done with advanced planning before aging family members start to experience these types of events.”

Families can begin the process of creating a financial plan by having an aging parent select who they prefer to take leadership of their finances should their capacity to make financial decisions diminish, NEFE noted.

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Accounting Today content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access