For those of us with living parents who are elderly seniors, it is possible that they will one day need help with their finances. Adult children should be aware of the signs that show they will need to step in and help manage their parents’ finances.
If you are not currently utilizing elder care or financial services for seniors, here are a few things to watch for yourself when you visit your parents.
A Pile of Bills
If you’ve been over to mom and dad’s and you see a stack of unanswered mail, this could be a sign that you may need to pay attention to your parents’ bills. As aging affects the mind and body, your parents may simply just not have the energy or mental focus they once had. Sadly, that might mean they neglect their finances or begin forgetting when bills are due. This extends into late statements and late payments. Aging parents may end up confusing due dates or thinking bills have already been paid when they actually have not.
A sign that your parent may have given away a large amount of money would be finding a large number of thank you letters from charities or an increase in charities asking for donations. While donating to charity and a good cause is very compassionate, not all charities are legitimate, and many are simply scams. If your parent has given money to an illegitimate charity, they may end up being contacted by more illegitimate charities and organizations asking for money.
Another part of the aging process is buying more things without much thought or planning. While this may sound somewhat harmless, when it comes to finances it means that your parents may end up making expensive and large purchases whenever they feel the urge. Unfortunately, this can shrink their savings and can even cause major financial problems if it happens too much.
Calls from Creditors
A very worrying sign that no adult child should ignore is a call from a creditor. By this point, the parent not only missed a payment but their credit score and credit history has been damaged. Depending on the situation, the creditor may even try and seize property your parent owns.
Keep an eye out for any investments that seem out of the ordinary. For example, if your mother or father buys stocks, but then you suddenly discover they recently invested into a startup, then you are right to be concerned. Also, if your parent begins touting a new friend they’ve made who just so happens to know of great investment opportunities, then you should definitely look into their friend and see if this so-called friend is stealing money from your parent.
If you discover that your parent or parents are in need of help managing their finances, then it is best to approach the subject carefully. Your parents are worthy of respect, and they may get defensive if they feel you are accusing them of losing their minds.
Sometimes the best approach will be to use yourself to start a conversation. Perhaps tell your parents that you decided to start examining your own finances and managing them better or more conservatively. You may also try asking for their advice on whether to donate to a charity but lead them into questioning if the charity is a scam.
If it becomes obvious that your parents need financial management, then it may be time to bring on a financial advisor or fiduciary. Marcia, L. Campbell, CPA, has over 25 years of experience in helping elderly seniors manage their finances and avoid disaster. While your parents may not say they need help, it is important to remember that the longer a bad financial situation goes on, the worse that it is likely to become.