How to Manage Your Parents’ Finances When They Cannot
Retiring well requires a decent nest egg, but many seniors face a decline in money-management skills just when they need to be the most careful with their money. Because of the double-whammy of high healthcare costs and the high rate of financial fraud against elders, your family needs a plan to help your parents manage the money they’ve worked to earn and save. Financial journalist William Power wrote earlier this year about the process he and his wife Julie went through to take over managing her parent’s finances at their request. It’s a cautionary tale about planning, communication, and expectations.
Julie’s parents, Power wrote, were always careful with recordkeeping, but the Powers’ still ran into obstacles that other adult children might find when trying to help their parents. These include tracking down:
- All the financial accounts your parents have
- What bills and subscriptions they have
- Login information for online accounts
- Keys to safety deposit boxes
Powers wrote that after 18 months, they were still sorting things out.
Advice for adult children managing their parents’ money
Based on the Powers’ experience, there are steps you can take – the earlier the better — if you’re taking over your parents’ money management. Start with an overall view of your parents’ financial situation. That means identifying all accounts, investments, and safety deposit boxes, along with all the information and forms you’ll need to access them in person and online.
One of those forms is a power of attorney (POA), which proves your parents have granted you permission to act on their behalf. It may save you time in the long run to pay an attorney to draw one up. The Powers’ found that the one they downloaded from the internet to save time and money wasn’t adequate. You may also need different POA documents for different banks and investment firms.
Expect to make many in-person visits to banks. Many of today’s seniors opened their accounts decades before the internet made online access possible, so you can expect to deal with a lot of paper and people. Plan your time accordingly.
Hire help, such as a geriatric consultant to help sort out the bills and accounts, an eldercare lawyer to draw up the POA and other documents, and maybe a CPA to handle taxes.
When your parents won’t admit they need help managing their money
Your folks may take advice from a professional that they wouldn’t take from you. Experts recommend inviting your parents to meet with a third party, such as a senior financial advisor or CPA, if you’re concerned about their ability to handle their funds. If they want to keep their finances private and can afford the fees, a daily money manager can handle their finances, give your parents the final say, and relieve you of the task of taking over. You can learn more about daily money managers and their role in helping seniors enjoy independent living on SeniorAdvisor.com.