While helping her Mexican parents plan for retirement, Lyanne has to be strategic to get them to open up about money. And Cindy Zuniga-Sanchez, a financial coach who works with millennial first-gens, speaks with Juleyka about initiating conversations about money with older relatives, and shares a handy retirement-planning checklist.
Lyanne is the creator of the podcast Moneda Moves.
If you loved this episode, listen to Talking to Mamí about Her Money and Mom is Pressuring Her to Buy a House.
Cindy Zuniga-Sanchez, Esq. is a money coach, speaker, and the founder of Zero-Based Budget Coaching LLC. After graduating law school in 2015 with $215,000 of debt, Cindy documented her debt payoff journey on social media, while sharing the personal finance knowledge that she was learning in a simple and relatable way. She has spoken to thousands and coached hundreds on budgeting, saving, debt payoff, investing, credit, building generational wealth, and more. She is committed to helping millennial women, particularly women of color, create a realistic money plan to achieve financial freedom. Cindy practiced law as a commercial litigation attorney at an Am Law 100 firm before diving into full-time entrepreneurship. She is a graduate of Stony Brook University and obtained her Juris Doctor degree from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. Learn more about her work here.
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Hi everybody. Today we have Lyanne on the show. Lyanne's parents are getting ready to retire. She's been having conversations with them about finances and is trying to help them plan for the next stage of their lives. But for Lyanne, talking about money and the future with her aging parents is as much about navigating emotional challenges as it is about logistics. Let's get into it.
Lyanne: My name is Lyanne Alfaro, and I am creator of a podcast about Latinos and money called Moneda Moves. I grew up in the northwest side of Chicago in a working class Latino neighborhood. My parents are immigrants from Guadalajara, and we grew up low income. My dad, he started a carpentry business, and we didn't have perhaps the most money, but we had a lot of emotional support from our parents who really had high hopes for the future. I have a younger brother. I'm the eldest, so I experienced, I think a few of them harder money questions early on, a lot of being frugal and counting our dimes.
It was difficult sometimes seeing my parents knowing that putting food on the table was a mission. My mom, I would sit with her, and we would sit over coupons over the dining room table and we would, on a winter cold day, we're going to walk an extra mile to get the meat at a few dollars less or even the limes for a few cents less, and as a kid, I didn't really understand the bigger questions.I think that probably the first bigger money questions that I saw my parents experience was kind of figuring out being homeowners in the 2008 recession and how complicated and difficult that was. I didn't always know how to help them other than translate documents and ask questions.
I moved away for college 10 years ago. I was going to University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign that's three hours south of Chicago. I became less aware of what was going on at home, and so I had the notion that things weren't necessarily peachy economically, but I didn't really pay attention as much to what my parents were doing. I just didn't have that capacity.
So, moving away kind of gave me an idea of what are bills, what is rent, what is a credit card, and I was able to work my way into a full-time job where I had health insurance and I learned what a 401K was. My parents never had that.
I came back to Chicago at this point almost a year ago, and honestly to this day, I'm still trying to put together the pieces of what happened in those 10 years when I was gone. My parents have stayed afloat, but I think where we're at now is there's an uncertainty about the future that I'm in a position to help us figure out.
My parents are in their 60s. I'm more acutely aware of the mortality of my parents, and it's something scary to sit with on an emotional level and then talking about, "Okay, what is it that we're going to do to make sure that you are taken care of?" It's a hard conversation to have, especially after being gone for 10 years and then you suddenly want to talk about money. I think the best way to talk about money was starting by rebuilding our relationship because I never lost touch with my parents. I always called them when I was away. It's just I didn't have that depth, and if I can't have an emotional conversation with my parents, I can't have a conversation about money. I realized that and I was hitting that wall for a while, and I think it's because I hadn't begun building that bridge to them.
I started having my parents over for dinner and my dad will bring the guitar, we'll have some chats, some laughs and some food, and then I would broach the subject and the first times they didn't even want to talk about it because talking about money, they talk about money, but not like this, and it also can feel so cold. You kind of have to weave your way in like, "Hey mom, dad, I've been thinking about buying a home. By the way, what are we going to do about your homes?"
My parents have two properties we've needed to discuss wills and trusts. Where's the property going to go? The other thing has been health insurance. Sometimes they've been insured, sometimes they haven't in the time that I was gone, and so making sure that they are insured. And so of course, money comes into that because we're talking about, "Okay, how much is the copay going to cost?" How can I lean in and help? And then, the other thing that we are talking about is elder care. I could not see myself putting my parents in a nursing home. We really had to sit down and have a conversation because it's not plan A, plan B, plan C, choose one, and it's all solved.
The most difficult part of these conversations is knowing that my parents aren't going to be here someday. Coming back home has almost made it even harder. Sorry, I'm getting emotional. I was just at my parents yesterday and it was like, I think I looked at them and I was just like, "Oh, wow, they're older." I'm like, "My parents are getting cute.” They're like, old, cute." When did this happen? And you realize that, that there's an end, and that's definitely the hardest part.
Lantigua: Speaking with loved ones about money can get messy real quick, but many of us first gens simply can't avoid talking about money with our families because like Lyanne, we're often managing our financial lives while trying to take care of our parents finances. So, how do we have more productive money conversations, especially when it relates to their retirement and aging, and what specific financial issues should we be trying to address to help us figure it out, I called in an expert.
I'm Cindy Zuniga-Sanchez, the founder of Zero-Based Budget Coaching LLC, a personal finance education platform for millennial women. Yes.
Lantigua: Millennial woman>
Lantigua: Why that focus?
My generation is at this point of being pretty developed into their careers and at this critical point of how do I manage my debt? How do I get started with investing? How do I start preparing my financial future? My platform is really dedicated to a sustainable approach to achieve all of those goals, and I'm also the author of the new book, Overcoming Debt, Achieving Financial Freedom: 8 Pillars to Build Wealth.
Lantigua: Oh my God, I'm so excited to talk to you. All right, so I'm going to start you with the same question I ever start, which is, as you listened, what did you hear? In Lyanne's story,
I heard a common struggle that I've heard so many times, which is, "Cindy, how do I manage my parents' retirement years?" For many of us, especially if you're a child of immigrants, this is the first time that your family is probably facing this type of responsibility. Unfortunately, if you Google it, you're probably not going to find many answers. If we just turn to a lot of the traditional finance advice, to be very honest, it just doesn't work for us.
Lantigua: So, tell me why that is.
So for us, it's different because for our parents, their main goal, especially if your parents immigrated, like my parents, I'm the daughter of immigrants. My mom is from Ecuador, my dad is from Honduras. Their main focus in really their adult years when they were around my age was, we need to have enough to have food on the table to have shelter over our children's heads, and we just need to make it. It's very much survival mode, and for us, the conversation is very different because for many of us, especially if we were born in the United States is... Well, I have a college education, which by the way costs me possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars. And so yes, I want to move ahead, and I need to get ahead financially, but I also need to deal with what I've already incurred. And on top of that, I need to make sure that my parents are okay because unfortunately, for many people, they did not have the luxury to think about their future selves, and that's the big difference is that we're in a position where we may have 401Ks at work, we may have access to IRAs or Roth IRA, but our parents may or may not have invested in those.
Lantigua: Okay, so here's the thing though, and you pointed it out, which is that most of us, and I'm also the daughter of immigrants, we grew up in a household where money was a tool for survival, right? There were no vacations, there were no expensive gifts, there were no extravagant gestures, and now we are generationally moved to a place where money is still a tool, but now it is also a tool for growth.
Lantigua: How do you begin to have that conversation with your parents without making them feel like they didn't do what they were supposed to?
Right. Yes. We have to remember that although personal finance is very much numbers driven, math is math. It is what it is. Personal finance and conversations about money are so emotional that we really need to proceed with caution, and one of my favorite ways to recommend approaching the topic is by sharing with your parents what's going on in your financial life. What are you learning about? "Oh, hey, mom and dad, I actually listened to this great podcast, and this is what they were discussing." I tell a lot of my core students and coaching clients, blame it on me. Tell your parents like, "Hey, I started following this girl from the Bronx. Her name is Cindy, and she talks about money really candidly,.” Ask them, what do you think about this? And also, you don't ever want your parents to be made to feel inadequate in any way, or as if you're trying to strip them of their power either. So instead, I like to come at it from a... “This is what I'm learning. Hey, let me tell you, she was talking about credit today. She was talking about saving today. She was talking about investments.” Start bringing up the conversations that way. If you are expecting to have any level of involvement in their finances, in their retirement years, open up that door to your picture as well. Even if for you, your picture isn't super hot and maybe you're dealing with a lot of debt, share that. Maybe say like, "Yeah, actually mom and dad, my biggest struggle right now is just trying to figure out what's going on with President Biden's Student Loan Forgiveness Program." Clue them into things like that first and foremost, and then we can hit the harder questions.
Lantigua: I get that, but I'm going to push back a little bit because a lot of us grew up really compartmentalizing and separating the things that we shared with our parents. One, because we wanted to spare them two because they really didn't understand some of the things that we were going through, and so now you're asking us to make a really big shift, and so how do we begin to open up about other things in our lives before we get to the money conversation? Because that just seems harder if you have not done this in other aspects of your life.
Yeah, absolutely, and it's first and foremost, it's going to depend on the relationship with your parents. Everyone has different relationship with their parents, and if your parents are not involved in your day-to-day or really much of your personal life, then you start small. Tell them about your job. Tell them about you're going to meet up with friends this weekend. "Oh, which friends?" "Oh, remember, my high school girlfriend?" Just start small because if we're going to get to the big one, which is the money conversation eventually, we need to be able to gradually build that rapport. And one of the ways that you can start introducing the money conversation, look, you don't need to tell your parents exactly how much you have in your bank account or what your credit score is or anything like that. If you don't want to, that's fine. You can just start telling them about this podcast that you listen to or this TikTok or look for... If your parents speak English, then awesome.
You can share some of the content that you've been exposed to. If they're strictly Spanish speakers like mine are, you can then show them personal finance accounts that are in Spanish. You might be surprised what kind of reaction you can get from them.
Lantigua: All right, so now let's get down to the to-do list. If our parents are approaching retirement age, what are some of the areas in which we can gently inquire and offer support if they need support for planning.
I really think we need to target three main buckets, so the first bucket is going to be understanding their current assets and liabilities, so what do they own and what do they owe? We need to understand what the state of our parents' finances currently is. Now, if your parents Lyanne, I believe, own two homes, two properties, right? Maybe possibly we would want to consult with a trust in the estate's attorney. If your parents are, again, non-English speakers, look through the bar association of your specific state, get a bilingual attorney, but bucket one is you want to understand the assets and the liabilities, any debts that they may have. For example, if the home isn't paid off, right? Credit card debts, things like that. Bucket two would be what are the income sources during retirement? Do they have any retirement accounts?
Do they have any 401ks, pensions that they can tap into from past employer, an IRA, which is an individual retirement account? Do they have any money set aside for retirement? But the second part, which I want to encourage all listeners to really look at with their parents is social security benefits. Depending on when your parents would start tapping into social security, their monthly benefit payment can vary and you can actually get an estimate of this number. If you go to the website, which is ssa.gov, I highly encourage you to do this exercise with your parents, so that you can at least have some sort of an estimate of how much they will receive. I did this exercise with my mom years ago actually, and my mom stopped working when I was born, so this is back in 1989. She was like, "Oh, yo ni sabía que me tocaba algo!" She basically said like, "Oh my gosh, I didn't know that I would be getting something!” Right? I'm like, "Yes, mom. You paid into social security,"
So, I definitely want us to be very mindful of this bucket too, which is understanding income sources during retirement. And bucket number three, which I also heard from Lyanne's question was long-term care. A lot of us, children of immigrants from communities of color, the Latino community, putting our parents in a nursing home is very much a taboo or a no-no thing in our culture. But that doesn't mean that we totally rule out all forms of long-term care. Long-term care can involve a home aid coming in during normal business hours to prep meals to make sure that the home is clean, to make sure that your parents have everything that they need before going to bed for the night. These are things that we can get, and so sometimes, depending on the type of insurance that you have, the type of pension plan that you have, you'd be able to see maybe what types of benefits your parents would have in that department. Another option would be long-term care insurance. You can go ahead, and look that up. I want to recommend AARP. They have a wonderful resource and also kind of conversation starters, so that you can have with your parents as well.
Lantigua: Oh, my goodness, those were fantastic and so specific and actionable. Thank you. I'm going to ask you one final question, which is, how do you continue to have these conversations if there's resistance, if there's just a down initially, if there's the "You are my child, you have nothing to say to me about this," how do we gently just lovingly also really help our parents understand these are things that have to be planned for?
Yeah. I think if you're met with some resistance, first of all, expect that. Don't go in thinking that your parents are going to be like, "Wow, this is exactly what I've been waiting on. Let's talk about absolutely everything. That's probably not how they're going to react. They're probably going to be maybe even a little offended. Why would you bring that up? Do you think I'm getting old? Et cetera, et cetera, and what you can do is actually tell them about things that you've read, where people that... Like this isn't just an issue for people that are at a certain age or that have a certain number of assets. There are celebrities that have passed untimely, young celebrities, and they've passed without a will or without an actual game plan for how their assets will be distributed, and what you want is for their wishes to be honored. That is the underlying theme, no matter the resistance that you're met with. Then also, don't expect all these conversations to happen in just one day. It's going to take some time, and that's okay, but please start at the very least, planting the seed.
Lantigua: Cindy, you are such a gem. Thank you so much for being with us today and for imparting all this wisdom. Please come back.
Yeah, thank you. Thank you. Thank you for having me, and I'd love to be back.
Lantigua: All right. Here's what Cindy taught us today.
Open up about your financial life. Initiate conversations about money with your parents by speaking candidly about your own financial goals and struggles.
Focus on three buckets, when helping your parents plan for retirement. Keep it to three main topics, their assets and liabilities, their income sources after they stop working and their long-term care.
And remember, highlight the end goal clearly and often, even when you meet resistance. Remind your parents that what you ultimately want is to honor their wishes. Repeat your intention as often as needed.
Thank you for listening and for sharing us. How to Talk to [Mamí & Papí] about Anything is an original production of LWC Studios. Virginia Lora is the show's producer. Tren Lightburn mixed this episode. I'm the creator and host, Juleyka Lantigua. On Twitter and Instagram, we are @TalkToMamiPapi. Bye everybody. Talk to you soon.
Lantigua, Juleyka, host. “She's Trying to Help Her Parents Get Their Money Right Before They Retire”
How to Talk to [Mamí & Papí] about Anything,
LWC Studios., March 27, 2023. TalkToMamiPapi.com.