If you want to help your parents plan for the future, you might want to approach Mom first.

Mothers, it seems, are far more likely than fathers to engage in frank conversations with their adult children about the important issues of retirement, finances, and future care, according to a new analysis by Fidelity Investments.

The report is the latest in an ongoing series of investigations into the financial habits of adult children and their aging parents, inspired by the findings of Fidelity's, "Intra-Family Generational Finance Study," an online survey administered to hundreds of adult children and their parents nationwide.

There's a definite gender gap dividing which parent is apt to be more receptive to talking about financial concerns with their children.

Across the board, more mothers than fathers report having detailed discussions with their adult offspring about a host of financial issues, including:

  • Health and eldercare: Sixty-six percent of mothers versus 56 percent of fathers
  • Wills and estate planning: Seventy-nine percent of mothers versus 69 percent of fathers
  • Covering living expenses in retirement: Seventy percent of mothers versus 55 percent of fathers

The majority of mothers (64 percent) also admit that starting such discussions with their children was not difficult.

The empathizer and the pragmatist

The difference in how much information mothers and fathers are willing to share may lie in how they each view their individual role in the family dynamic.

Most mothers see themselves as the "empathizers" of the clan, making them more apt to initiate a dialogue about sensitive subjects, such as money and end-of-life planning.

Fathers, on the other hand, tend to perceive their role as that of the logical, practical "pragmatist." They believe in a no-nonsense approach to talking about touchy subjects.

This dichotomy can ultimately lead to breakdowns in communication; and may be part of the reason why nearly half of adult children report not having had a comprehensive discussion with their parents about the future, despite the fact that 94 percent agree on the vital importance of having such a conversation.

How to have "the talk" about money

When parents neglect to have honest discussions with their adult children about issues of personal finances and future care, disagreement and discontent can abound for both parties.

In addition, not talking about the future can have a detrimental effect on a caregiver's ability to plan for their own needs in retirement.

If your aging parents continually resist having a conversation about these vital topics, you may have to take the initiative and get the dialogue going.

The following articles can offer a few strategies for sparking a productive discussion with your parents:

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