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Daily money managers for the average Joe
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Matson, a retired elementary school teacher, became a daily money manager two years ago after helping family members sort out their personal finances. She charges $40 an hour, and spends, on average, one or two hours per month with her mostly elderly clients in their homes.

In addition to the labyrinth of Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance bills to sort through, Matson spends a good deal of time explaining statements to her clients.

"Things have gotten so complicated financially, with the way that financial statements come through," she says. "I help people check their medical bills and make sure they are getting reimbursed properly."

Matson is careful to maintain her role as adviser and will not become a signer on her clients' accounts. Liability insurance, she notes, is very pricey for daily money managers.

"My clients actually sign their checks, or in some cases I work with their relative who has durable power of attorney. I don't want to have fiduciary powers," she says.

Aging in place
When money is only part of the aging issue, a more holistic approach may be called for. That's when a more specialized version of daily money manager known as a geriatric care manager, or GCM, can help.

"The distinction for GCMs is their goal to help people remain independent for as long as possible," says Patricia Morris, a GCM in Newton, Mass. "It takes knowledge of aging issues. It's a very different focus."

Morris became a GCM two and a half years ago. She holds a law degree, a master's degree in counseling and is a certified financial planner. She charges $60 an hour for a range of services, including financial counseling.

Geriatric care managers often come out of a health care or elder services background and can make recommendations on elder care and aging-in-place issues, in addition to providing money management assistance.

Families typically call on Morris for help when an elderly parent or relative has inadvertently caused a financial calamity.

"When they write checks more than once for the same bill or they don't write checks at all, that's a sign," she says. "And medical bills can be a real problem, especially when one spouse is trying to take care of the other."

A geriatric care manager is often the individual's last hope for financial independence before a family member steps in or a court-ordered conservator is appointed to tend to their affairs. If the Social Security Administration deems it necessary, it will appoint a representative payee to receive the benefit checks on behalf of the individual and manage that portion of a person's assets. The Veteran's Administration similarly may appoint a federal fiduciary to manage an individual's pension if the veteran is unable to do so.

Money management assistance is available free of charge to low-income seniors through the AARP-sponsored money management program, which gives volunteers the software tools and supervision to help with routine tasks. Consult your state Agency on Aging or for more information.

Next: How can the elderly avoid con artists posing as DDMs?
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