Your elderly mother still lives alone, and due to her declining health, you’ve been helping her take care of her household. Finances are a topic that you’ve avoided up until now, but it’s become quite apparent that mom isn’t paying her bills on time. And, she’s gotten “taken” by a couple of dishonest contractors just within the past year. Now her financial carelessness has reached a point that it has you worried. Helping an aging parent manage finances can be hard, but it is possible when you follow these tips from the pros.
Have “the Talk” with Mom
Approach mom respectfully about your concerns, and ask her to sit down for a few minutes to discuss how you can help. Due to pride, most seniors are guarded about their finances, so be tactful when offering your support. First, gently find out if mom has enough money in the bank to cover her monthly bills. If so, and once she’s agreed to accept your assistance, it’s time to proceed.
Become Mom’s Power of Attorney
If mom’s health is declining, it might be wise for her to designate you as a legal power of attorney (POA). There are two types of POAs, with each acting independently of the other:
- Medical. This person can legally make medical decisions on behalf of a loved one when the latter is incapacitated.
- General. Also called “financial power of attorney”, this type of POA can legally make monetary decisions for another person.
Other ways to legally take over a loved one’s finances are by being named a designated trustee or court-appointed guardian. For illustration purposes, and with the blessing of your siblings, let’s say mom chooses you to serve as her POA. Now it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work helping get her finances back on track.
Managing Her Monthly Bills
Studies have found that roughly 20% of Americans aged 65-and-over fall victim to financial scams and frauds. So that mom won’t get taken advantage of, look through all her checkbook ledgers, bank and credit card account statements for signs of suspicious activity like:
- Bills that were paid twice
- Credit card charges that aren’t in line with what you’d expect mom to buy
- Recurring charges, like magazine subscriptions that mom doesn’t use
- Late fee charges because monthly bills aren’t getting paid on time
Other precautions you can take include:
- Warn her about phone or email scams like IRS imposters, fake charities and even fraudulent funeral arrangements.
- Advise mom to hang up on phone solicitors who make her feel pressured or ask for her personal information or credit card number.
- Tell her not to do business with unsolicited home contractors that go door-to-door unless she’s discussed potential repairs with you first.
- Open a joint bank account, which is a great way to keep a watchful eye on mom’s spending while still allowing her to be independent. If it looks like mom might be a little short of cash because of something like unexpected auto repairs, you can also easily deposit some money into her account.
- Watch for missing bank funds or unusual purchases that don’t make sense.
Set a Budget
Determine mom’s total monthly income from sources like pensions, Social Security, real estate and retirement accounts. Next, sit down and list out all her monthly bills a