|Detecting when a senior needs financial
|By Jay MacDonald Bankrate.com
The longer we live, the more likely we are to lose track of our finances.
The cause may be physical (failing eyesight or shaky
hands making bill paying and record-keeping problematic), mental
(dementia or memory loss impairing our thinking and organizational
skills), or a combination of both.
Since pride, or fear of losing independence, often
prevents seniors from seeking help with the money chores of everyday
living, their accounts can erode unnoticed for years, until one
day, to their horror, they find themselves in financial trouble.
"They can be very adept at hiding their inability
to be able to take care of their paperwork," says Liz Crystal,
a daily money manager in Green Brook, N.J. "After driving,
not being able to handle their finances is probably the most significant
sign that they're losing their independence. They often hide it
from their family more than anybody, mostly because the family is
the one unit that can force a change."
Members of the American
Association of Daily Money Managers are often the first to notice
warning signs on bank and credit card statements that suggest a
senior's financial skills are slipping.
"There are lots of red
flags -- checks bouncing, utilities being cut off for nonpayment,
large bills like property taxes being paid twice and mountains of
unopened mail," says Pamela Brehler, a daily money manager
and Certified Senior Advisor in Chapel Hill, N.C.
Frustrated by the limitations of age, some seniors will cease to
pay bills and fail to enter deposits and/or withdrawals, reconcile
their check registers or keep account registers altogether. Unable
to differentiate between medical statements sent by their insurers
and actual payment-due bills, some seniors play it safe and pay
anything that looks official, while others simply stack all incoming
mail in piles, unopened.
Both benign and nefarious forces frequently combine
to take advantage of a senior's failing faculties.
Take charity for example, normally a worthwhile way
to contribute to a better world. But because charitable organizations
-- some legitimate, others questionable -- frequently share mailing
lists, seniors who give to one may receive dozens of solicitations
in return for their generosity.
"My clients love to give to charity," says
Bridget Pendergast, a daily money manager in Virginia Beach, Va.
"Unfortunately, they generally can't remember which charity
they just gave to, and these charities will send envelopes for contributions
every month or sometimes every week."
The flood of mail that flows from financial institutions alone often makes it difficult for seniors to tell a bill from a product offer. The problem is compounded by the tendency of the WWII generation to hold accounts in several institutions, resulting in a veritable blizzard of junk mail. Months, even years, of monthly membership fees and charges can result when they cash that "free" $10 check that triggers an underlying program. Just how many octogenarians need credit card insurance against sudden job loss?
Saddest of all, many seniors become targets of their caregivers and even their own family.