Being independent for most people remains a top goal throughout their lives. From the time children become teenagers, the goal for independence becomes strong. Adults maintain this goal throughout their life and it is often considered a measure of personal self worth. It can be difficult for a parent to give up any independence, ranging from their right to drive, to living alone, to having others responsible for their health care and even financial matters. It is important, however, for both the parent and their family that these matters are carefully managed. This article addresses those warning signs that indicate that you should consider helping your loved ones with their financial affairs to help them remain as independent as possible.
1. Bills become delinquent. Even if there are funds available to pay the bills, are they going unpaid? This could be for a number of factors including the recent loss of the family member that managed this part of the relationship. Many couples have divided up the financial responsibilities at home, sometime with one of the partners managing all financial matters. The remaining parent may not even be aware what bills are legitimate and which bills are fraudulent solicitations. The impact of travel and memory also impact timely payment.
2. Spending on items that do not seem appropriate. A remaining partner may not understand what it costs to maintain the financial aspects of their life such as mortgage payments, insurance coverage, taxes and other major cash outflows. They may inaccurately believe that they have enough to live the rest of their lives even while giving extravagant gifts or taking long, while perhaps deserved, trips or buying expensive items.
3. Household repairs are being done. Work is being done to their home when you didn’t know that there were problems. Roofing, siding, driveway pavement, and other remodeling activities may be a sign that the elderly parent has fallen prey to unscrupulous sales people. If you have had the discussion with the parent about the need, it is still possible that the parent did not get competitive bids or check references on the company doing the work and may have made a full payment or a significant down payment prior to any work being performed, a significant financial risk.
4. Financial accounts have been opened or changed. Your parent indicates that they have opened a new bank or investment account or added somebody to the account, taken out a new insurance policy, hired a live in care-taker, or other such activities without having any discussion with you prior to taking the action. Bank accounts are often changed or established to add a new person with signatory authority to access the funds or investments. Insurance policies are often sold by over zealous sales people. Live in care-takers can have a lot of control over how a parent spends their money. While all of these may be valid, and even good activities, your lack of knowledge of them should concern you.
5. Credit report looks odd. An annual credit report review should be done by every adult, and this is true even for those who are not in the need of new loans. If a credit report indicates a lot of new inquiries on the parent’s account or that new accounts not recognized by the parent have been opened, it is possible that the parent has been the victim of identity theft.
You can utilize daily money management firms to manage the financial aspect of your parent’s life, ranging from checkbook balancing to bill payment. You should carefully evaluate the services offered as well as the cost and reputation of the individuals providing these services. While it is not easy to discuss the need for your parent to have assistance with maintaining their financial independence, it is important to recognize that their, and perhaps your, financial security is at stake.
Billy Peterson is the founder and president of ElderCare Financial, LLC. Mr. Peterson has extensive business management and personal investment management experience over a 25+ year career and is applying this knowledge to providing personal financial services to the elderly and their caregivers.
ElderCare Financial provides secure, bonded and insured internet-based daily money management services to caregivers and is dedicated to “helping you help them(tm)”. ElderCare Financial frees up the caregiver’s time and provides extensive reporting to provide peace of mind that financial matters are being taken care of properly.
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