Knowing when to step in:
Helping aging parents manage their money can be tricky. Avoid direct questions. You might begin by relating a swindle you’ve read about over a casual meal. Take a gentle approach and kick off the topic by relating stories you’ve heard of people being bilked out of funds. This may open up the topic to the point where they share information about recent investments they may have made. Or you can be direct and simply ask them if they’ve been asked to invest their money in person, by mail or over the phone. Do the people who call them ever them ask for their social security numbers or their bank account information? Has anyone promised them abnormally high returns on their money?
If they say yes, it may be time for a financial intervention. No one said helping aging parents manage their money would be a cakewalk. They are likely to tell you to butt out. Don’t.
If you suspect they’ve been the victims of a scam, call the police immediately. Insist the police need to know so no one else gets hurt. Often people, especially seniors, feel shame when they’ve been victimized, but if they also feel if they can help someone else, they will open up.
Effectively helping aging parents manage their money is easier if you check for these 3 things:
- A stranger has recently formed a close relationship with them, and has easy access to their home, money, and other property.
- Mom or dad has changed account beneficiaries or authorized new signers to their accounts.
- Property such as jewelry, furs, etc., is suddenly missing.
Without question, if you spot any of these, it’s time to step in.
Maintain a Joint Account
Some adult caregivers keep joint accounts with a parent, to help them keep track of finances. Often when one parent is left, the remaining spouse finds it a relief to share the burden. You might even offer to pay the bills from the account to relieve them of that chore, especially if they are getting forgetful.
If you are a co-signer on your parent’s account, here are some red flags to look out for:
- Unexplained, missing checks
- Large withdrawals or transfers from bank accounts
- Credit card charges that the older person can’t explain
- Signatures on checks that you don’t recognize
Swindlers are clever and they can be very charming. Our elderly were raised to be polite and trusting and assume the best and that’s what crooks play on. Being smart at helping aging parents manage their money means being brave enough to broach the subject. Keep your eyes wide open when you are with them, especially if you live far away and visit rarely.