Among the more difficult money challenges in life is knowing when to persuade an aging parent to hand over his or her checkbook — or, if you’re the one in your golden years, when to ask for help managing your finances.
Here are tips on dealing with this sensitive issue.
Sometimes older is wiser: It’s not news that the brains of older people slow as they age. The surprise, however, is that when it comes to making money decisions, their life experience can more than make up for that decline, according to a study published in the journal Psychology and Aging and conducted by Ye Li, a University of California, Riverside assistant professor of management, and several colleagues at Columbia University.
“The findings confirm our hypothesis that experience and acquired knowledge from a lifetime of decision-making offset the declining ability to learn new information,” Li said.
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Warning signs: There comes a point, however, when most elderly adults will need help. If you notice unusual money habits — piles of unopened bills, compulsive purchases from TV shopping networks, rampant spending on lottery tickets, giving away money to sketchy charities — there might be a problem.
The talk: Discussing the topic of aging and money is difficult no matter which side of the conversation you sit on. Ideally the older person would initiate the discussion. Other times, it will be a younger family member who gets things started. He or she should seek buy-in from the older adult, maintaining a respectful tone.
Financial inventory: Round up names of the elderly person’s financial institutions and professionals, including phone numbers and online logins and passwords. Make sure that a will and financial power of attorney are current. Requirements for financial powers of attorney vary by state, so it’s important to have one for the state you live in. Know where to find important papers — birth certificates, insurance policies, tax returns.
Automate bill-paying: Among the first observable signs of cognitive decline when it comes to money is forgetting to pay a bill or paying bills twice. As an adult ages, put as many bills on autopay as possible — for example, an automatic debit from a checking account.
For example, you might combine checking and savings accounts into a single bank and transfer investments to one investment firm. Fewer accounts makes money life easier to manage.