How to assist with your elderly parents' finances

Your guide to stepping in without stepping on their toes.

At some point in the future, your parents may no longer be able to handle their own finances. And even if they need help, it might be tough for them to ask. The key, then, is to take a sensitive approach to stepping in and helping them. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Sometimes, simply setting up automatic payments for recurring bills will be enough to get the finances on track.

Get Involved Now

Helping your parents with their financial concerns isn’t comfortable for anyone. But even if they don’t need it now, it’s never too early to get involved. Simply communicate your willingness to help and take a light touch as you begin the process of detailing what’s coming in, what’s going out, their financial responsibilities.

Small Steps

As opposed to crashing in with financial phasers turned up to 11, take it slow. If changes need to happen, assist them slowly, deliberately, step by step. Remember, it might be hard for your parents to let go of a responsibility they’ve had for decades, so–to full mix the metaphors into an unrecognizable stew— keep the bulls out of the China shop and the kid gloves on.

Account for It All

Your parents’ financials might not be as cut and dry as you’d like. That’s why it’s important to get as full a financial picture if possible. (Gently) bring in outside, professional help if necessary. Get a good grasp on both financial and legal situations.

Simplify and Take Over

Sometimes, simply setting up automatic payments for recurring bills will be enough to get the finances on track. Other times, it may take a lot more effort to get things squared away. But whatever it takes, do what you need to do to get your parents’ finances back under control.

If changes need to happen, make them slowly, deliberately, step by step.

In the Loop

Keep your parents informed. Keep the channels of communication clear. Whatever steps need to be taken, keep things documented and make sure they understand what’s going on.

Separate

This is important: keep your finances separate from your parents. Even if you completely absorb the responsibility for their finances, it’s a bad idea–on a lot of different levels–to merge their finances with yours.

Be on the Lookout

Fraud is a big threat to seniors. Throughout everything, be sure to look for signs that your loved ones are being targeted by fraudsters. Make note of any strange purchases or suspicious mail. 

The main takeaway here is that your parents might need help with their financials. Follow these tips and you’ll be well on your way toward setting them up for success as they move toward the later seasons of their life.