By Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, The Money Coach®
As people age, it’s not uncommon for them to require assistance doing routine tasks they once handled with ease—and that includes financial matters. But when your parents get older, they may not want to burden you by asking for financial help. Even if they become forgetful, your senior citizen parent may resist having you (or someone else) fully take over their financial affairs.
For your part, you may not want to assume the task of managing your parents’ finances, or you may be cash-strapped and not able to give direct economic support. Regardless of your own financial condition, there are several keys ways you can help your elderly parents and let them keep their financial autonomy.
Here are three tips to help mom and dad with their finances – even if you’re low on funds, and they want to remain financially independent.
- Help Them Get Organized
All of us have lots of financial paperwork. You might have digital records. But for many older people, keeping financial documents in order can be an especially complicated task because senior citizens may have important paper files dating back years or even decades. To relieve some of the record-keeping burden, help your parents organize things like their health insurance, life insurance and property insurance records. It’s also a good idea to keep track of assets, like bank or retirement accounts, stocks, bonds or mutual funds, as well as any loan obligations, such as mortgages or credit card balances owed. Finally, be sure to ask your parents about where they keep any estate planning items, including a living will, a last will and testament, or trust documents.
Having all their documents nicely organized will give your parents greater financial peace of mind.
- Identify Potential Resources
Retirees are often are entitled to numerous financial benefits, government assistance and other sources of aid – but they may not be aware of such resources. So you can greatly help an aging parent by letting him or her know of programs, services and money-saving resources for which they qualify. For example, the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) can be a wealth of information. For those on a tight budget or a modest fixed income, AAA has benefits counselors that provide free local counseling on everything from health insurance and hearing aids to food stamps and income assistance.
If your parents have a tough time affording their medicine, private help is also available from various initiatives through pharmaceutical companies. The website for the Partnership for Prescription Assistance maintains a list of participating programs, along with instructions on how to apply for aid.
- Warn Them About Scams
Unfortunately, con artists prey upon the elderly with all manner of financial scams. So just by talking to your parents about the risk of identity theft or other common rip-offs, like “the grandparent scam,” you can help them avoid financial catastrophe. (The “grandparent scam” occurs when crooks swindle someone by telephone, by pretending to be the victim’s grandson or granddaughter, stranded in some far-away location).
Other times, scammers place bogus phones calls to senior citizens, posing as debt collectors or pretending to be IRS agents. Fraudsters also target older Americans with alleged “prizes” or sweepstakes, which will supposedly be granted after the unsuspecting victim pays a hefty upfront fee.
Bottom line: let your parents know that unscrupulous people may contact them by phone, mail or online. They should never give out personal information such as Social Security numbers, passwords or account numbers. So they should remain vigilant and notify you—and the police—of any attempted or actual fraud.
Extra Credit provides general information to help improve our Member’s financial lives. Every situation is different, so please contact us for guidance on your specific needs. The advice provided in Extra Credit is not intended to serve as a substitute for speaking to a loan representative, financial advisor, or BALANCE counselor who can help tailor a solution for you.
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