Helping Your Elderly Parents and Relatives Manage Their Finances
There are a few things you can do to make caring for your elder loved ones easier on you—and on their budget
Caring for an aging parent or relative can feel like a full-time job—a job that can quickly escalate and require a lot of your time and energy. You might even feel unqualified to manage some aspects of an elder family member’s life such as their finances.
Here are a few steps you can take to lessen the burden of money management and help them protect their assets for the years to come.
1. Assess their current situation
Get organized by pulling together a file of your elder’s important documents and key financial information. The following pieces of key information are a good place to start:
- Social Security number
- Insurance information: A copy of insurance and/or Medicare cards, a long-term care policy, and any life insurance documents
- Names and contact information for lawyers and financial advisors
- List of recurring financial obligations and costs—such as mortgage, rent, loan payments.
- An updated list of current medications and conditions
- List of current accounts and statements for:
- Checking/savings accounts
- Safe deposit box information
- Brokerage/mutual fund account statements
- Retirement or pension account information
- Beneficiary information for financial accounts such as IRAs or 401(k) accounts.
- Veteran status
Getting a clear picture of where they stand will help you determine what kind of financial help you’ll need to acquire. You might consider meeting with an attorney or a financial advisor to help you develop a plan that will support your elderly parent or relative to manage their finances.
2. Prepare important legal documents
At some point, your elder may need help paying bills, managing other financial obligations, and making medical decisions. Consider checking with an attorney to help you and your elder prepare the legal documents that will allow you to act on your elder’s behalf, such as:
- A durable power of attorney can enable you to make financial and legal decisions.
- A medical power of attorney can allow you to medical decisions, including the right to consent to, or to refuse, medical care.
3. Get them set up with online banking
One way to streamline where and how an elder individual accesses their finances is to help get them set up with online banking. That means less paperwork and trips to the bank. If they’re not already using online banking—a majority of adults over 60 are not – now’s s a good time to make the move. A tool like Ready, Set, Bank can help them get up and running with online banking by watching short educational videos.
You can also opt to connect your online accounts to help pay bills and review statements. This will give you a seamless way to review balances, transactions, transfer funds, and deposit checks on their behalf.
4. Prepare for the medical aspects of elder care
Be sure to have an updated list of current medications so you can answer any questions and have conversations with medical providers in the event of an emergency.
Financially speaking, matching the level of care your elder family member requires with what they can afford is one of the trickiest aspects of later-life budgeting. If they’re living on a fixed income, you’ll want to make sure they have the financial bandwidth to receive the level of care they need—whether it’s assisted living, in-home care, or otherwise. Medicaid offers compensation for family members caring for parents full-time—this article outlines that and other options. For veterans, look into Veteran-Directed care options here.
Review your elder’s Medicare choices, as well. Some stick with the plan they signed up for originally because it’s simpler than making a change when a different plan would be cheaper and more appropriate. Seniors who have low incomes and few assets may qualify for Medicaid, a federal program administered by states, which pays for medical care. Eligibility requirements vary so check with your state’s Medicaid office.
5. Protect them from fraud in an increasingly digital world
Protect elders against identity theft, fraud, and scammers who prey on the elderly. The elderly are sometimes more susceptible to TV offers, telephone scams, con men and others. You can help by staying in touch, enlisting the help of a neighbor or other friend to visit daily, either in person or by phone. Be alert to new people in your elder’s life and keep an eye on their checking and savings accounts.