Let’s face it – bill paying is one of the most unpleasant chores of life. And managing money only gets harder as we age. Tax and banking laws change; the technology of personal finance gets more complicated, and health complications make paperwork a challenge. Hopefully your senior is lucky enough to have a caring individual like you to assist them with these matters. We’re here to lend a hand as well by sharing some tips to help loved ones organize their finances and make paying bills less stressful for seniors.
Watch for signs they need help
Today’s generation of elders is very independent, and normally this would be a good thing. However, it can backfire if your loved one needs help with the bills but is reluctant to ask for it. If you don’t pay attention – or check in periodically – their finances can quickly spin out of control. Health issues can also complicate this task. If your loved one has an extended stay in a hospital or rehabilitation center, or is just under the weather, money management can get put on the back burner . . . and stay there.
Automatic bill paying for seniors
If neither you nor your elderly loved one wants to deal with the hassle of paying bills, guess what? You can use technology to take over some aspects of banking including automatic bill payment. But some seniors may be hesitant to rely on technology because it seems overwhelming or confusing to them. You can help bridge the gap.
You can easily arrange direct deposit for your loved one’s Social Security, pension or investment checks – with their permission, of course. Likewise, you can make bill paying a breeze, by setting up auto-pay for bills directly from their bank account or credit card. You’ll still want to check in to make sure funds are available, and that bills are correct but, overall, it’s a much simpler system.
Head off trouble before it starts
The best defense is a good offense, and this also goes for financial matters. If you can head off potential money trouble before your elder runs into it, that’s one less source of stress for you both. For instance, if you notice your loved one is struggling to manage money due to a cognitive decline, being pro-active can head off issues before they worsen.
You may have to work out a plan with your loved one to have their mail come to a PO Box or directly to you so you can review bills and bank statements. This can also prevent identity theft or fraud or from your loved one writing checks to scam artists that prey on seniors. If the cognitive issues worsen, you may want to look into procuring legal conservatorship to protect your loved one and their finances.
Keep your loved one involved
The good news is that most seniors can continue to participate in the bill paying process. You may be tempted to take over the process since you can do it better and faster, but it’s a good idea to keep your loved one involved. They want to feel in control of their finances even when they cannot go it alone.
Helping with the bills is paying back
Perhaps the special senior in your life is a parent who paid all the bills while you were growing up. Or maybe it’s an elderly friend who always looked out for you. Helping them with money management is the perfect way to give back some of the love they showed you over the years. You don’t have to write every check for them but making money management more efficient and secure can preserve their lifestyle and peace of mind – and that’s the greatest gift of all!
If you are unsure of how to best help an aging loved one with money matters, including financial management, oversight, and crisis intervention, the trained and compassionate staff at the Institute on Aging is here to help. Contact us to find out more.