Avoiding the conversation means decisions are put off until there's a family crisis, often resulting in sharp disagreements.
Lack of communication was a key theme in the survey findings. Sixty-eight percent of older parents said they were more comfortable talking about these matters to a third-party financial professional than they were with family members. That was the case for 60 percent of the adult children.
The lack of discussion contributed to differing views about how often older parents worry about their long-term financial security. Forty-six percent of adult children think their parents worry at least once a month, while just 32 percent of parents reported they worry that often.
Adult children may be more concerned about these issues than their parents because many are part of what's known as the "Sandwich Generation," middle-aged people trying to care for their elderly parents while also supporting their own children.
Such parents "may be grappling with planning for their own retirement, helping to fund a child's college education and dealing with eldercare and retirement challenges with their parents as well," Murphy says.
The survey was conducted from July 24 to Aug. 29 by the firm GfK, with Fidelity not being identified to survey participants as the sponsor. GfK used its KnowledgePanel sample, which first chose participants for the nationwide study using randomly generated telephone numbers and home addresses. Once people were selected to participate, they were interviewed online. Participants without Internet access were provided it for free.
The total sample recruited for the study included 975 parents who were 55 years or older, had an adult child and investable assets of at least $100,000. Out of that sample group, results were generated from 152 parents who were compared to one of their adult children. Those children had to be at least 30 years old, with at least $10,000 saved in an investment account such as an IRA or 401(k).