Solutions to figure out how you can help the older adult with finances include:
Having a sense of the older adult's general financial situation can help you with financial tasks.
Explain why you want to know more about the older adult's finances. Ask what information the older adult feels comfortable sharing with you.
Some people are more comfortable talking about money than others are. Don't push the older adult to share details.
A full financial picture includes:
Ask the older adult about each financial category and any trends. For example, are the older adult's expenses holding steady, decreasing or increasing?
Ask if the older adult is planning to make or expects major changes, like moving or needing paid help.
The federal website LongTermCare.Gov lists average costs under "Costs & How to Pay: Costs of Care." It also includes long-term care planning tips and links to average costs by state.
Tell the older adult how you will use any information. Keep any financial information that the older adult shares secure. For example, put documents in a locked cabinet and don't share sensitive information over email.
If learning about the older adult's finances gives you ideas about how you or others could help, suggest them to the older adult.
Ask if the older adult wants help with financial tasks. This could be anything from driving the older adult to the bank to keeping track of bills to helping make financial decisions.
For each financial task, think about whether you can help the older adult. Ask yourself:
Tell the older adult who you think might be able to help with different financial tasks. Say which tasks you would like to take on.
Helping with financial tasks often involves finding and organizing information.
Legal documents define who can be involved in financial and healthcare decisions. Ask if the older adult has an up-to-date:
Ask the older adult to either give you or another trusted person copies of these legal documents or to let you know how to access them in case of an emergency.
If you're helping the older adult with more involved financial tasks, you might need access to the older adult's accounts. Talk to the older adult and their financial institution, accountant or lawyer to find out what level of access makes sense. For example:
To organize information, find a secure space to keep documents related to the older adult's finances. This can be a binder, notebook, file folder, drawer or computer folder.
Keep information about the older adult's finances and legal arrangements together, but separate from your personal records. This might include:
Secure all documents with sensitive information, like account details, Social Security numbers or credit and debit card numbers. Keep paper documents with sensitive information in a locked cabinet. Keep encrypted files of computer records. Once files with sensitive information are no longer needed, shred paper copies and securely trash computer files.
If the older adult would like help with financial tasks, discuss what each task does and does not include. Offer to write up short descriptions for each task. This allows potential helpers to understand what they're being asked to do.
Ask who the older adult trusts and feels comfortable asking to help. If tasks can be done by phone or computer, people don't have to live near the older adult to help.
Offer to contact potential helpers. Ask each person if they can help the older adult with a specific financial task. Share the task description. Discuss how much time the task will take, and if it's a one-time, occasional or ongoing need.
For those able to help, ask what information they need. Ask when they will do their tasks. Discuss who they can contact with questions and who they will tell when their tasks are done. If any tasks involve sensitive information, discuss how they will keep the information secure.
To keep the older adult's finances secure, encourage the older adult to only share the information needed to do each task. If the older adult decides to give others access to accounts, ask if limited access is an option. Ask if the older adult's financial institution can limit the size of withdrawals or send alerts about unusual account activity. Ask how often the older adult checks account balances, activity or statements.
Ask if the older adult has worked with or knows financial professionals in the area, like financial advisors, accountants, lawyers, brokers or appraisers. If not, ask if the older adult would like help finding professionals.
When looking for professional help:
Before meeting with professionals, ask what the older adult's top questions are for them. Bring copies of any relevant financial or legal documents. Ask the professional to write down their recommendations. Discuss the professional's advice with the older adult and decide on next steps.