Senior Lifestyles: When, how to help manage your parents’ money

Published 8:00 am Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The standard response when you ask your parents how they’re doing is typically the word “fine.”

If the phone calls start coming in from their bank that they’ve bounced another check, or you notice that their bank balance is dropping faster than usual, however, you may be witnessing a silent call for help.

Many aging parents won’t admit they need or want your assistance, and sometimes you have to be strong enough to step up and step in to save them from themselves.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Here are a few things you can do to prevent problems and recognize if it’s time to get involved:

• Prevention of problems is easier than fixing them, so begin conversations about their money and its management before problems arise. Pay attention to bank statements, bills and cash flow so you’ll recognize an issue if one should occur.

• To some parents, their children — at any age — are still “children” rather than adults. Many of them can’t seem to take counsel or advice from their children, so bringing in a close, trustworthy relative or an outside “expert” to help often makes sense. No matter what choice you make, introduce new change slowly, and keep the lines of communication open to reduce future misunderstandings. A good idea is to establish automatic bill payment through their bank for recurring key bills like phone, rent, water and electric to be automatically paid on time every month.

• Get their finances organized and know where all their financial resources are located. Make a list of all account numbers, contact names and be sure they have their advance directives in place and up to date know and the location of all original documents as well as wills, deeds and birth certificates.

• Some signs that it’s time to step in and become involved are usually easy to recognize. One way some elderly people avoid paying their bills is by not opening their mail. If you see growing piles of unopened mail, that’s a pretty sure sign of trouble. Another indicator is a new interest on the part of your parent(s) in making purchases of items they don’t need or really can’t afford, like a sudden increased expenditure on sweepstakes or lottery tickets. Keep in mind that senior citizens are prime targets for telemarketing and other types of scams.

• Pay attention to their general health. Failing vision or difficulty in writing checks because of a physical condition are indicators that your help is needed. Just because Mom or Dad say things are “fine” or that they can “handle it” doesn’t make it true, and obvious indicators like declining memory and increasing forgetfulness of simple things are signs of trouble, especially where money is concerned.

Staying involved with your parents, particularly where financial oversight is relatively easy to do, is truly a situation where an ounce of prevention can prevent a lot of problems down the road.

Ron Kauffman is a consultant and expert speaker on issues of aging. His wife’s geriatric management practice serves clients in Henderson, Polk and Brevard counties. He is the author of “Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Disease,” available as a Kindle book on He and his wife may be contacted at 828-696-9799 or by email at