“The power is off again!” my Aunt Sylvia exclaimed into the phone. This wasn’t the first time I’d received a call from her like this. In fact, this was the second time in the last year that her power had been shut off and she’d called me in a tizzy.
Living alone half way across the country from any of her family, including me, my aging aunt struggled to keep her household running. Normally a very punctual lady, she’d begun to forget to pay some of her bills for months at a time, eventually leading to her power being shut off. I don’t really know how it got to that point, but I wasn’t there to help so I could hardly criticize her.
The issues with her finances continued when one of her at-home caregivers took to writing herself generous checks that amounted to much more than her agreed-upon hourly wage. It was then that I realized I needed to find someone to help my aunt stay on top of her finances. That’s when I discovered money management programs.
Thankfully, there are a plethora of daily money management programs for seniors at home that assist them as much or as little as they need in managing their finances. Let’s look at the parameters of a daily money management program, explore the criteria for choosing a sound one, and take a look at some of the leading programs for older adults that help them live independently.
What Is a Daily Money Management Program?
As my Aunt Sylvia demonstrated, it can get harder and harder for aging adults to manage their financial affairs. Day-to-day tasks like paying bills, monitoring spending, writing checks, or simply going to the bank can become a challenge, especially for aging adults with dementia, cognitive decline, or mobility issues.
A daily money management program seeks to help manage aging adults’ finances so that they can continue living independently. Services will vary from manager to manager, but daily money management programs will generally offer some or all the following services:
- Paying bills
- Balancing checkbooks
- Transferring funds to various accounts
- Writing checks (to be signed)
- Preparing tax returns
- Navigating medical bills
- Checking financial statements
- Handling in-house payroll for caregivers and other services
- Negotiating with creditors
- Managing bank deposits
Help with these tasks can be very beneficial for aging adults to help keep their finances organized and their households running smoothly, but they can also protect them from financial scams, which aging adults are, unfortunately, very susceptible to. It is important to note that money managers do not replace accountants and lawyers, as money managers typically only deal with the day-to-day management of money and not with long-term financial planning processes.
Daily money management programs also have the benefit of relieving family members and caregivers from the responsibility of managing their aging loved one’s financial affairs—a job that can be incredibly time-consuming and difficult to navigate. Of course, the greatest advantage of having a sound, reliable money management program is that it can help make it possible for aging adults to remain living independently at home.
What to Look for When Choosing the Best Money Management Programs for Seniors
The process of finding a money management program can be difficult if you don’t know what to look for. There are many daily money management programs out there all offering fairly similar services, so you’ll want to do your due diligence when it comes to choosing one. Also, keep in mind that daily money managers are not currently regulated by the federal government, so you’ll really want to make sure you protect yourself and your aging loved one by finding one who is experienced and trustworthy.
Here are some important steps you can take when looking for a quality money management program for your aging loved one:
Get a personal recommendation: Choosing a money manager that comes highly recommended from your financial planner, lawyer, or local bank can be one of the easiest ways to find a trusted daily money manager for your aging loved one and can save you a lot of research. The advantage here is that the people you trust have likely had direct experience with the one they recommend, so you can rest assured you are making a good choice.
Contact your local aging organizations: Non-profit organizations that help aging adults live independently, like the Institute on Aging (IOA), will sometimes offer financial services and money management services. IOA, in particular, provides financial services for low-income aging adults who need help managing their finances. If your local aging organizations don’t provide such services themselves, they will likely be able to put you in touch with a good program.
Search on a reputable database: The American Association of Daily Money Managers provides a simple search tool on its website that makes it simple to find money management programs in your area. Keep in mind, though, that you still have to do your own research on these programs.
Interview money management programs and providers: Once you have a few leads or recommendations, it really is best to meet with potential money managers to ask them important questions and get a feel for who they are. Here are some key questions to ask when choosing a money management program:
- What services do you offer?
- What services do you not offer?
- How much money management experience do you have with aging adults?
- What are your credentials?
- Do you have liability insurance?
- What are your hourly rates and fees, and what can I expect to pay monthly?
When it comes to cost, money managers typically charge an hourly rate, which ranges anywhere between $50 to $150 an hour. The price will largely depend on the extent of services provided, so be sure to get really clear about what your aging loved one needs when it comes to money management, and what money managers offer. Some money managers will also offer reduced-rate services for low-income aging adults, so be sure inquire if this is a service your loved one needs.
Ultimately, having someone trustworthy and qualified to provide your aging loved one with the daily financial help they need to keep living independently can really be a lifesaver—for you and for your loved one. That way, your loved one doesn’t have to worry about missing payments, dealing with Medicare bills, and being the victim of financial fraud. With a trustworthy and experienced money management program, their finances will be protected and they can maintain and enjoy their independence.
At Institute on Aging, we provide older adults with the resources, financial and otherwise, that they need to live healthy, safe, and independent lives. Contact us today for more information about how we can help your aging loved one manage their finances.