What's in Your Parent's Wallet? (And What That Means for You)

Taking stock of your elderly parent’s financial situation usually requires initiating a potentially uncomfortable discussion–money matters are a touchy subject, especially when family comes into play. Elderly parents are often reluctant to share control of their finances. It may be simply that they just don’t know the details surrounding the state of their finances. No matter what the situation, try to include your parents in managing their finances. Eliminating their involvement may prove to be psychologically debilitating to them, as it can feel like a loss of control.

Show your acknowledgment and concern by sharing and exchanging information with your parents. This open dialogue will help with difficult decisions or changes that might need to be made. Oftentimes, an objective third party can help gather the necessary information without the intimidating family interplay.

The state of one’s financial affairs can incite many emotional issues. Familial rivalries, differing needs and relationships with the parent can all result in unproductive rifts that complicate the situation for everyone. Consider that your parents’ life experiences affect the way they think, and the decisions they wish to make. Please respect the fact that their financial resources are just that–theirs!

Create a Budget–Simple as 1-2-3
Calculate a budget by identifying all income and expenses. Don’t be intimidated by this task–you can complete it in three painless steps.
Review bank account records, investment information and old bills. These will give you some guidance. Order copies if necessary, and use the table below to guide you.

Income Expenses
Future Needs

Now calculate your parents’ net worth. Inventory the assets from the most liquid (i.e, the easiest and least costly to access) to the assets that are more difficult to liquidate. For example, you may want to begin the list with checking and money market accounts and end it with assets such as real estate.
Follow this with a specific list of all debt and other unpaid liabilities. Be sure the asset values you use are conservative and pad the liabilities for safety.
Questions to Consider in Helping Manage Your Parents’ Finances
Are your elderly parents able to continue managing their finances on their own?
Do they merely need assistance with bill paying, necessary record keeping or organization?
Is a change in strategy required either because of their living situation and care needs, or market conditions?
Are they financially stable, having more than adequate income to meet increasing expense demands?
Do they have sufficient assets (or insurance coverage) to tap that would cover any increasing financial burden?
What is the present and future going to demand financially?
Will the cost of long-term care be a factor?
Be realistic! Identifying options and their costs begins here. A financial planner can help evaluate the situation and alternatives. Discuss with your parents the possible combination of government, insurance, community and family resources as financing alternatives.

Getting organized will lay the foundation for making sound financial decisions. Simplifying one’s financials through consolidation, as long as there isn’t a cost, can be very beneficial. Preparing for financial management will help you improve your parents’ quality of life.

Source: Suzanne Wolfson, MBA, CFP, www.ForRetiredOnly.com

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