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Rob Lowe on Having 'The Talk' With Your Parents

How adult children can start the conversation on retirement and aging

By Jack Tatar, SCAN Foundation, and MarketWatch

Editor's note: This article is part of a year-long project about aging well, planning for the changes that aging brings and shaping how society thinks about aging. This article appeared previously on MarketWatch.

I grew up with Rob Lowe and his movies and TV work. From The Outsiders and St. Elmo’s Fire to his roles on The West Wing and Parks and Recreation, Rob Lowe has been the handsome and dynamic face of a generation.

Barely a boomer, at 50 years of age, Lowe is like so many of us — he has thrived, struggled and re-created himself. As successful as Lowe has been, he has encountered many of the situations we all have. That includes the need to speak with both our own children and our aging parents about their financial matters, as well as ensuring that our own financial situations are sound. (Watch him talk about becoming an empty nester here.)

(MORE: What to Learn From Rob Lowe's Tears)

Helping Mom Led Lowe to Help Others

It was Lowe’s personal experiences that led him to sit down with me and discuss the need for families to have the “conversations that matter” about topics of later life, including long-term care.

Lowe just completed an educational video series with Maria Shriver for Genworth Financial that focuses on families having these types of conversations.

Some of the long-term-care-related statistics that raised the issue for Lowe:

  • 70 percent of those who live past 65 will need some form of long-term care at some point
  • More than 90 percent of American adults don't have long-term-care insurance
  • 59 percent of Americans are uncomfortable talking to their families about long-term care
  • The cost of care, whether in home or at a living facility, can get extremely high — up to $87,000 a year or more (for nursing-home care)

It was Lowe's personal caregiving experience that created the “tipping point” to reach out and begin helping others deal with these conversations, which can sometimes be uncomfortable. “The reason that I'm involved is that I got blindsided by not having been prepared for a parent who needed long-term care,” Lowe said.

(MORE: Casey Kasem's Legacy for Caregivers)

Lowe said that his financial situation and professional career ultimately allowed him to assist his mom. He was fortunate, but said he realizes that those less fortunate need to understand that the importance of discussing this topic early with their parents and address the need to implement plans for these later-life issues, such as long-term care.

Lowe admitted that it's often not easy to have “The Talk” or to even know when to have it.

No Perfect Time for "The Talk"


“There is no perfect time.” Lowe said. “One of the downfalls is you wait for the perfect time and, inevitably, it never comes.”

Lowe said he believes that you need to be prepared to take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves to have the discussion about long-term care and other later-life matters. Even by just keeping the issue “on the radar” with your parents, you're ahead of the game, Lowe said.

He also noted that the talk is more about the process rather than a single sit-down. “That only happens in movies and TV shows,” Lowe said.

(MORE: Talking With Your Parents About Money)

Lowe noted that research from Genworth suggests that “our parents want to have the talk.” This correlates to my findings on the topic as well. And yet, we often find that parents avoid the topic because they don't want to be a burden to their children and family.

“What prevents them from having 'The Talk' is fear of seeming like a burden, and what prevents the younger generation from having it is fear of bringing up the subject, which is needless because our parents want to have this talk,” Lowe said.

Balancing the needs of his young adult boys with the needs of his elderly parents led Lowe to use his celebrity status to encourage families to discuss these vital topics.

"The Talk" between adult children and their parents is a necessary one, and one that we shouldn't fear.

Jack Tatar Read More
By SCAN Foundation
By MarketWatch
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