Is It Time To Help Your Aging Parents With Their Finances?
It's a sensitive issue because no one enjoys talking about money, particularly if a person is not on top of his or her financial game. For many seniors, even those who have been sharp and financially responsible their entire lives, managing finances can be a struggle, especially if they have cognitive difficulties. High health-care costs, poor financial planning, fraud, and mounting debt can add to the problem.
How can you tell when it's time to step in and help your parents? Here are five signs it's time to start helping your parents with their finances.
You Notice Piles of Unopened Mail
Has your otherwise organized parent fallen into the habit of leaving the mail in a big pile? Stacks of unopened letters could contain important notices, bills, and bank statements. This should be a red flag as well as an indicator your parent is having cognitive difficulties or is unwell.
Creditors Are Calling
When creditors start calling, you know the bills are falling behind. Maybe your parents are complaining about the calls they're getting, or maybe you've noticed the calls after checking call logs and voicemails. Whatever the case may be, a sudden increase in calls from creditors is a sign your parents are struggling with paying their debts.
Friends, Family, and Neighbors Are Concerned
You might not always be the first to notice behavioral changes indicating your parents need help. If friends or relatives come to you and share their concerns or tell you they've noticed some unusual or unexplained changes, you need to sit up and take notice. Keep a closer eye on what's happening with your parents and schedule a visit to gauge the situation for yourself. Take those concerns seriously.
Your Parents Aren't Handling Money the Same Way
Have your parents recently bought a big-screen television, new appliances, or other splurges? There's nothing wrong with them treating themselves. But if your parents start spending recklessly, forget to deposit checks, or handle money differently than they always have, it's time to step in.
They're Not Taking Care of Themselves
Have you noticed the house is sloppy and in need of a good cleaning? Are your parents looking unkempt? As people age even easy everyday tasks can become difficult and unmanageable. If your parents are struggling with the activities of daily living, they're likely struggling with their finances, too.
Tips for Helping With Finances
If you can, have an open and honest conversation with your parents before they need your help. Ideally, you'll have time to get important documents together and make arrangements that'll give you a head start if you need to start helping them. For example, your parents could make you a list of their key accounts along with user names, passwords, and account numbers. You should also make note of your parents' insurance information, Medicare and Social Security numbers, and driver's license numbers. The more details you have now, the easier it'll be to seamlessly transition to helping them.
If you have all that information, you can even help from a distance. Set up automatic payments through their bank for certain accounts, pay bills online, and set up online access to their accounts so you can keep a watchful eye on their finances. That'll help you quickly spot problems with money management. It's also helpful to have a financial power of attorney in place, which allows a designated person to make financial decisions.