Anyone who has cared for an aging loved one understands the worry about their daily finances. Age-related impairment can often show up first in the financial arena, causing an aging Mom or Dad to start forgetting important details about their money. This creates worries for the kids. Are your parent’s bills getting paid? Are they getting paid properly? Is your parent giving away money inappropriately?
If managing your parent’s finances isn’t something you want to tackle yourself, a new article on the website NextAvenue.org suggests a solution you may want to consider: a bill paying service. But as the NextAvenue article points out, if you decide to look into one of the growing number of these services, “Just be prepared: it could be expensive.”
First, here’s a bit of background. This type of service is not the same as giving someone legal authority to manage your affairs. Here at AgingOptions we always advise our clients to make certain they have signed some form of durable power of attorney, authorizing a trusted adult child or other loved one to make financial decisions on an impaired senior’s behalf. This is a critical legal and financial safeguard. But it might not solve the day in, day out problem of keeping your parent’s checkbook straight, especially if Mom or Dad is still living independently. That’s where a bill-paying service, also referred to as a “daily money manager,” comes into the picture. These services could save a huge amount of headaches for those seniors with some cognitive impairment, estimated at about 20% of those 71 or older, and as many as half of those in their 80’s, for whom basic bill-paying has often become a challenge.
If you live close to your parent and want to take on the responsibility of daily money management, you could step in – but as the NextAvenue author, Richard Eisenberg, explains, that can bring you a host of headaches. “It means hours of detail work…examining every bill that arrives, getting each check paid and mailed and reconciling the checkbook routinely.” Eisenberg should know, because he and his sister co-manage the routine financial affairs for their aging dad. For many families, this degree of personal involvement isn’t an option.
NextAvenue describes some of the new bill-paying services for seniors, with names like SilverBills and the Fiscal Concierge. (You can find out more information and search for firms at the website of the American Association of Daily Money Managers.) The founder of SilverBills explains some examples of those whom these firms are primarily designed to help: “stroke victims who can no longer write checks easily; widows whose late husbands formerly handled the bills; parents too proud to tell their adult kids they need help paying bills and adult children who’d rather spend quality time with their mothers and fathers than check writing.” MoreHow Aging Affects Financial Decision Making
The article makes clear that these services are not designed to act as financial advisors or accountants. They are retained simply to make sure bills get paid on time and sometimes to help resolve the client’s billing problems. But as NextAvenue’s Eisenberg points out, the cost for this peace of mind can be steep. Charges for bill-paying services highlighted in the article range from $60 per month to well over $100 per month. Monthly fees can soar up to $400 or more. So you’ll definitely want to do your homework and check multiple references if you decide to look into a service like this for your loved one. The NextAvenue article is a good place to start.
As with everything pertaining to retirement, solid research and careful planning are the irreplaceable keys to future security. At AgingOptions we have counseled hundreds of clients and thousands of radio listeners about how to craft a well-rounded, personalized retirement plan – a design which we call a LifePlan. Your LifePlan encompasses everything you’ll need to protect your assets in retirement, avoid becoming a burden to your loved ones, and make certain you’re not forced into unplanned institutional care. It takes into account your financial security, your medical coverage, your legal preparations, your housing choices and your family communication needs, all in one comprehensive blueprint.
You can find out more about LifePlanning by taking a few hours to attend a free, no-obligation LifePlanning Seminar. We invite you to bring your financial questions and join us soon. For dates, times and locations, click on the Upcoming Events tab, or call our office. You can register online or by phone. It will be our pleasure to meet you and to work with you!
(originally reported at www.nextavenue.org)