Ways You Can Work Better With the Older Adult on Finances


Solutions to help you work with the older adult on finances include:

  • Learning about the older adult's financial plans

  • Understanding feelings around finances

  • Dealing with different opinions

  • Exploring different ways to help

Learning about the older adult's financial plans

Ask if the older adult wants to discuss financial plans and priorities with family and others close to them. If so, offer to organize the gathering. Ask what the older adult wants to discuss and what topics are off limits. Beforehand, tell everyone that will and won't be discussed.


If the older adult doesn't want to have a group discussion, ask the older adult to talk about financial plans and priorities with you. Say you want to make sure you understand the older adult's wishes.


Whether it's a group or one-on-one discussion, ask the older adult about:

  • Legal arrangements, including the older adult's will and power of attorney for finances

  • How the older adult plans to pay for health, housing, personal care and other needs

  • How the older adult would deal with unexpected costs

  • Any plans the older adult feels strongly about, for example about living arrangements

  • If the older adult can't make financial decisions at any point, what the person or people making decisions for the older adult should keep in mind.

Write down the main points of the discussion. Show the older adult your notes and ask if there's anything you should add or change. Ask if the older adult wants to share the notes with others.


Understanding feelings around finances

Ask how discussing financial matters makes the older adult feel. Older adults are often concerned about:

  • Losing control over their finances or other aspects of their life

  • Making people close to them worried, angry or offended

  • Not having enough money to cover expenses

  • Being fair to others when making financial plans

  • Leaving some inheritance to family or others close to them

People who help older adults manage finances have their own concerns. Be honest with the older adult about your feelings. Tell the older adult if you're concerned about:

  • Not having the time to help the older adult with finances

  • Trying to help the older adult with something you don't understand

  • Saying something that will offend the older adult

  • Seeming like you're focused on the older adult becoming seriously ill or dying

  • The older adult not having enough money to cover expenses

  • Someone scamming or stealing money from the older adult

  • How the help that you or others give the older adult should be included in financial discussions

Write down the older adult's and your top concerns. If you're faced with a tough financial decision or difficult discussion, look at the list. How might these concerns be affecting your conversation? Can you do something to address these concerns?


Dealing with different opinions

If the people who help the older adult disagree about financial decisions, ask the older adult if it affects them. After all, the older adult has the right to decide.


Ask if the older adult wants to discuss disagreements. If so, offer to organize a discussion.

Ask who the older adult wants to involve. Ask whether the older adult wants simply to understand the different opinions or to find a solution that everyone can support. Beforehand, explain the goal of the meeting to everyone.


During the discussion, try to understand why people are disagreeing. Is it because they have different information, see the situation differently or have different priorities?

It can help to:

  • Share relevant financial information with the group, if the older adult agrees

  • Discuss the situation or question first, separately from what people think should be done

  • Ask if the older adult wants advice or has already decided

  • Discuss how this is similar to and different from previous financial decisions

  • Occasionally have a "go around," where everyone gets a few minutes to share their thoughts

  • Keep track of points of agreement

  • Take notes that can be shared after the meeting and referred to later

If disagreements are causing problems, ask the older adult about involving a respected person from outside the group. Having a "neutral" trusted person lead discussions can help. If the older adult wants to do this, ask about community or religious leaders, social workers, advisors or others who could lead discussions.


Exploring different ways to help

If you're not comfortable with record keeping or number crunching, there are other ways to help the older adult manage finances. For example, you could give the older adult rides to the bank or credit union, or be the organizer of or note-taker during financial discussions. You could help the older adult with health or home needs, freeing up someone else's time for financial tasks.


One of the biggest challenges for people who help older adults is admitting when they aren't able to help. If you can't help the older adult manage finances, say so. Offer to contact local agencies, professionals, or trusted family or friends who might be able to help the older adult with financial tasks.