Adult children are often surprised to discover an aging parent is struggling to manage their finances. Even those seniors who are active and independent sometimes need a little extra help keeping their financial house in order.
Recognizing the Signs a Senior Needs Help Managing Their Finances
If you aren’t sure how well an older loved one is managing their finances, there are a few telltale signs you can look for when you visit them next. The most common ones include:
1. Unopened bills on the counter
2. Calls from creditors about unpaid accounts
3. Some bills being paid twice while others are neglected
4. Unusual charges on credit card statements
5. Lack of knowledge about their financial situation
If you notice more than one or two of these warning signs, it may be time to take steps to help support and protect your aging loved one’s assets.
How to Help a Senior Manage Their Money
For many adult children and family caregivers, just the idea of starting a financial conversation with their senior loved one can be intimidating. This generation is one that often refrained from discussing money with their children. But failing to tackle the topic with an elder may have disastrous consequences. Seniors are often the target of financial scams and various forms of financial fraud. Understanding their financial situation and how they manage it is one of the best ways to keep their money safe.
Here are a few steps you can take to protect an older family member’s money:
1. Review their Financial Accounts: Plan an afternoon where you can sit down together to review their financial records. It might mean opening a stack of quarterly statements they haven’t looked at for years or helping them reconcile a checking account. Take time to carefully evaluate what activity has transpired in all of their accounts.
2. Organize Financial Files: If they don’t have their files organized already, create a master list of their accounts and set up corresponding files. To help prevent identity theft, make sure these documents, as well as their Social Security card and Medicare card, are kept in a secure location.
3. Agree on a System: Moving forward, it will help to have a system you both commit to maintaining. They may wish to continue paying their own bills but agree to give you permission to access their online bank accounts and creditor sites. That will allow you to review their activity and make sure bills are being paid in a timely manner. It can also help you detect any potential signs of fraud or abuse.
4. Regular Financial Reviews: Try to encourage your senior loved one to sit down with you once each quarter so you can help keep their systems organized and evaluate how their financial accounts are performing. If they have a financial advisor, see if your family member will agree to let you attend any meetings they have.
5. Protect Them From Scams: Seniors are often perceived as being an easy target by thieves. If you haven’t already done so, sign your aging loved one up for the Do Not Call Registry. Many of the crimes perpetuated against seniors begin with a telemarketing phone call. While the registry won’t prevent all unsolicited calls, it will help to reduce them. You can also help them set up security notifications on their credit cards so you both receive a text message when a card is used and they aren’t present or when the balance hits certain levels. Click here for more tips to protect yourself and your senior from scams.
Finally, if your senior family member doesn’t already have important documents such as a durable power of attorney and a will in place, help them find a reputable attorney who can create those.