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Money bag.

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In our Living in Retirement blog, a recent retiree chronicles the ups and downs of her real-life retirement journey.

In good company, it's perfectly acceptable to discuss sex, romance, illness and certain aspects of money - as long as no one mentions the I word: Inheritance.

With boomers' expectations about receiving their aging parents' wealth fulfilled or rising, the I-word can be described as their last best-kept secret. My friends never reveal how much they have or are set to inherit.

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But not talking about an inheritance makes it hard for heirs to chart their financial future. And the danger, of course, is that boomers are as averse as their parents were to discussing the I-word with their own children, who need to plan their money more carefully than ever.

In The New York Times, a financial planner laid out four reasons why parents are hesitant to talk to their kids about inheritance: they don't want to confront dying, don't want their children to know how much they will receive, don't want their heirs to become lazy and dependent, and lastly, they don't trust their children's financial acumen.

Although there might be some validity to these reservations, secrecy can't be the answer.

In my family home, my father spoke repeatedly about a mysterious pot of assets which I could inherit. On many occasions he threatened to disinherit me if I didn't act in accordance with his strict rules. What he didn't do was tell me how much I would inherit, nor did he instruct me in how to mange my own finances.

He was of the old school, remaining absolutely silent about what would happen with his estate after he passed away. My mother didn't know more than I did and after he died and she inherited the estate, her inexperience with financial management led her to hand her portfolio over – lock, stock and barrel –– to a trust company, which charged dearly to manage her money.

When she passed away of dementia ten years after my father died and I became the trustee of her estate, I was saddened and surprised to find she had hidden $35,000 in cash from the trust company in a safety deposit box.

In my mother's final will, the one the trust company encouraged her to compose, the managers became the trustees of the estate and it was not until I turned 50 that I could inherit her money without multiple strings attached. If I had inherited it immediately upon my mother's death, I could have paid off my mortgage 15 years sooner. Other members of my extended family faced similar quagmires, and in the process, watched their inheritance shrink through fees and questionable investments.

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Although the transfer of family wealth is rarely discussed, a poll released this summer found that 55 per cent of Canadians admitted to receiving an inheritance. More than 60 per cent of those polled believe they will be lucky enough to get one in the future.

And even though the poll pegged the average inheritance in Canada at just under $100,000, there's no way of knowing if my generation is engaging in candid discussions about handing over family wealth to their kids.

Are boomers having these important conversations with their heirs and their financial advisers? Or are they - like their parents - living in denial, despite the roughly $1-trillion in family wealth that could be transferred from one generation to the other in the next two decades in Canada?

A long time ago, I decided to tell my daughter everything. Last month we visited the branch manager of our bank to open an retirement savings account for her. She got a splendid lesson about the power of compound interest.

Beyond that, she knows how much I could leave her, if my financial plan works out, how much my house is worth and where my other assets are situated. I believe it helps her to plan her life accordingly and make important decisions based on fact and not on speculation. I'm trying to train her to do the things it took me decades to figure out.

As for the boomers who have already inherited from their Depression-era parents, mum is the word. They are the ones who never discuss finances in public although they own a summer cottage in Muskoka, a winter vacation home in Florida, and frequently embark on trips to Paris or voyages to the Far East on a retiree's pension.

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Possibly Gen Y will finally break the I-word taboo, by talking candidly about how good old mom and dad blew the family jewels or about how they'll get the cottage when their parents pass on.

So much can change in fifty years.

Follow Joyce Wayne on Twitter: @JoyceWayne1951

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