Helping the Elderly Manage Their Money

Do you have any suggestions for how I can help my elderly mom with her finances? She's still living independently in her own home, but it's becoming increasingly clear that she'll soon be unable to handle her finances and other matters of practical business on her own. I see a disaster coming if my siblings and I don't immediately begin preparing for what's to come. Do you have any suggestions?

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You’re wise to begin thinking about this now – before your mother is past the point of being able to participate in the process of providing for her own future. If you don’t take the time to look ahead, she may find herself facing a financial dilemma as she moves into her final years. Even if she has planned for her retirement using pension funds, stock-market investments, social security, home-equity, or other sources of income, the possibility still exists that she may be caught in what is called the “longevity-inflation” squeeze. Medical science and improved diet have extended the lives of many older Americans. But the longer a person lives, the more likely she will be to deal with reduced income and chronic health problems. Women, in particular, live longer and may outlive their money.

If you are concerned that your mom may be facing financial trouble, it is important to assess the situation. First, make sure that she is comfortable sharing personal information with you. If not, you may need to consider using a financial advisor, accountant or attorney as a neutral third party to facilitate the necessary discussions about her finances.

Once you have the go-ahead, begin by helping your mother calculate the total value of all her assets, such as savings, investments and real estate. Then ask questions to see what kind of financial shape she is in. How much of her savings, if any, is being spent each month? Can she eliminate any expenses? Are there other sources of money available (e.g., cashing in a life-insurance policy, selling items or properties)? What about health-coverage? Does your mom have Medicare or Medicaid and any supplemental insurance coverage?

It’s also crucial to determine whether she has the means to continue supporting herself at her current standard of living. For this to be possible, the average retiree today has to provide about 60 percent of her living expenses while social security pays for the rest. Now is the time to help her evaluate her retirement portfolio and consider the best way to diversify her investments if investments are a major part of her retirement income. If you don’t feel competent to assist in this area you can contact a financial planner, who will work with you to design the financial plan best suited to your mom’s needs. Get referrals from friends and look for a reputable financial advisor with integrity and a good track record. It’s especially important to find an individual or company that shares your values.

To locate local professional agencies that can help you and your mother resolve financial matters, you can contact the
Eldercare Locator, a free, nationwide directory assistance service. The toll-free number to call is 1-800-677-1116. Local government and non-profit agencies can provide information and referrals without charge. For state and county organizations, check the government section of the white pages under Aging, or visit to the
National Association of Area Agencies on Aging‘s website.

For additional help and information on this topic, we’d encourage you to consult the resources and referrals highlighted below. Or if you have relationship concerns and challenges associated with this situation, please don’t hesitate to give our Counseling department a call.


Caring for Your Aging Loved Ones

Complete Guide to Caring for Aging Loved Ones

Complete Guide to Faith-Based Family Finances

National Association of Area Agencies on Aging

Caregiver Action Network

National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers


Crown Financial Ministries


Caring for Ill or Aging Parents

Financial Freedom – God’s Way

Excerpted from The Complete Guide to Caring for Aging Loved Ones, a Focus on the Family book published by Tyndale House Publishers. Copyright © 2002, Focus on the Family.

This information has been approved by the Physicians Resource Council of Focus on the Family.

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