As family members age, organizing and securing finances is an important step for long-term financial preparation and peace of mind. Depending upon the situation, widows and widowers may have never even touched or had access to their accounts in the past, relying solely on their spouse or someone else for help. Thus, helping seniors put their finances in proper order is more important than ever.
Before you begin to offer any sort of assistance, it’s important to first have a conversation about your concerns and your reasoning for helping. You want your parent, loved-one, etc. to feel in control of their decisions and never completely compelled to give up power. Ask questions surrounding any trepidation or hesitation they may have in terms of turning over financial responsibilities.
Make a list of all the monthly documents that need to be touched and reviewed and then get a system in place for payment. Such documents may include:
- monthly bills: phone, cable, utilities, HOA, insurance, etc.
- all financial accounts: banking accounts, safety deposit boxes, etc.
- carry-over benefits: retirement accounts and social security income
- insurance policies: life insurance, homeowners, auto, etc.
- taxes: several years’ records of income tax returns and receipts
- legal documents: will, power of attorney, health care proxy, medical directives, and durable power of attorney
- important contacts: names and numbers of lawyers, accountants, financial advisors, etc.
Once all the information has been collected and organized, it’s often best to set up automatic payments for monthly and quarterly items, assuming there is assurance of enough money in the bank each month. Not having to worry about keeping track of when bills are due and where to pay them is a huge help – simplicity is key.
Again, once all the necessary paperwork is gathered, this needs to be stored in a safe place where both your aging family member has access as do you. Wills, Powers of Attorney, etc. all need to be accessible in an emergency. Additionally, you may want to seek out a professional manager at this point, simply to keep things in order if you’re not readily available or live far away, and just to keep an eye on things. This may be a scary idea at first, but your aging family member will certainly be relieved over time. Take all complexities out of the situation and create a sense of ease.
Organization and simplification is certainly the name of the game when it comes to senior finances.