BOSTON (TheStreet) -- There are certain conversations that will probably always be awkward between parents and kids -- sex and money chief among them.
For the latter, however, the older your parents get the more important it is to keep open the lines of communication. Decade by decade, keeping tabs on their retirement savings, health care arrangements and legacy plans becomes increasingly crucial.
"In our survey of workers of all ages, very few indicate they frequently discuss saving, investing and planning for retirement with their family," says Catherine Collinson, president of the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, which is funded by contributions from Transamerica Life Insurance. "I think its something that we all have to get comfortable with. If you can't trust your immediate family, who can you trust? All too frequently, if there is a savings shortfall, a lot of the burden will fall on family members."
Collinson says the 12th annual Transamerica Retirement Survey, released last month, asked workers in their 20s whether they thought they would eventually need to provide financial support for a family member. Forty-three percent said "yes," another 34% said they were not sure; only 24% said "no."
Will such conversations and questions be awkward? Collinson's advice: get over it.
"It is far better to have a grasp of the situation when you can be proactive and plan for it, versus finding yourself in a crisis situation where the adult child has to figure everything out on their own," she says.
The following are some of the questions kids need to ask at each phase of their parents' golden years.
When your parents hit 60
Collinson says it is important for children to prod their parents, as needed, to define what they expect to live off of when they retire. The center's study found that very few adults approach retirement with a savings goal that goes beyond guesswork and, despite a professed reliance on Social Security, "very few have a solid understanding of what their benefits will be."
"That's an important place where an adult child can help," she says. "With Social Security and Medicare some of those benefits are actually petty complicated. It is nice to have multiple pairs of eyes taking a look at it and making sure there is an understanding of what it is."
One strategy for breaking the ice when you parents are in their 60s is to make the questions about yourself. Bring up your own retirement plan and ask mom or dad what they think: Do they think you are making the right moves?
This solicitation for advice can be leveraged to inquire about the state of their upcoming retirement. Do they feel they have enough saved? What assets will they draw from? What will their expenses be? What's their plan for health insurance, and do they have long-term care insurance?
A question that may help guide your own financial planning, even as it gives insight into their situation, is to ask whether they have any regrets. Is there anything they wish they had done -- or done differently -- as they prepared for retirement?
This is also a good time to ask what their post-retirement plans might be. Do they plan to sell their house to either downsize or move? Will they travel? Is a major purchase such as an RV or boat part of the plan? Their answers may clue you in on whether your parents are setting themselves up for unreasonable spending patterns or, conversely, you may find yourself in the role of urging them to do more, to take full advantage of the retirement years they worked so hard for and deserve.