Create a Roadmap to Your Important Information

The “Save It or Shred It” guide has been updated 2020 and you can download a free copy of this white paper to help understand:

  • Why it is important for every adult to organize their personal information
  • Which papers are important to gather
  • What information you should document/record
  • Which papers to keep and which documents you should shred

The reality is that MOST of us will need someone to have this information so they can help us. Many of you have probably already experienced this. You need to step in and help someone, and the hardest part is getting a handle on the information you need to help them.

When you are done, I promise you the roadmap you create will save you TONS of time and frustration. Shared.

Simple Ways to Protect Finances.

While likely under-reported, the National Council on Aging estimates elder financial abuse and fraud costs to older Americans range from $2.9 billion to $36.5 billion annually. Older American’s that have been abused have a 300% higher risk of death when compared to those who have not been mistreated.

After caring for two parents with dementia, I remind myself how much the checkbook meant to my mother. She had always managed the household finances and pointing out to her that she was failing to manage the finances was something that needed to be left unsaid. If you are concerned, first work with the person to support their efforts before suggesting they hand over the checkbook and finances. Some easy ways to help may be:

  • Create a monthly schedule of bills and maintenance due dates
  • Log in to the banking websites and credit card sites to monitor spending and confirm no fraudulent or suspicious transactions and fill in the bill pay gaps
  • Set up a checking account they can use that has a minimal balance to keep in their purse or wallet for writing checks and use a different account for bill pay needs

My mother kept losing her purse that included her checkbook. So dealing with that was very time consuming. My Dad recognized this and took me to the bank to set up a new checking account for my Mom. We funded it as she needed money but no longer had to worry that the account that received their retirement funds and paid for the mortgage was at risk. We automated many of the home bills (mortgage, utilities) and I would monitor the spending behind the scenes.

Utimately, I wanted to help but not be invasive or diminish my parent’s ability to manage their finances.

Some other tools to consider include:

  • Get a tile and insert it into the wallet so you can easily find it if it get’s misplaced. You can use their online portal to track it’s location.  
  • Set up a TrueLink card. It is basically a pre-funded credit card where you can set up limits on how much can be charged as well as products and services that it won’t fund. There is a fee for it, but the small expense is worth the money it will most likely save in potential losses.

If you have a variety of personal care assistants coming into the home, or your loved one is in a community, I hope you will consider some of these options.

I have worked with families both at home and living in communities that have been a victim of caregiver exploitation. One got my client to write her a small check, one purchased some face cream for my client and asked her for repayment of $85, and another apparently kept asking for gas money. Most agencies and communities require their caregivers agree to never accept money or gifts from clients. Should a client give them money, it needs to be reported to the community or agency. In one month, I had to report three caregivers for violating this condition of employment. Sadly, I know they will just turn up at another agency.

Managing the finances for many may be one of the few remaining freedoms that offer a sense of control. Some are giving up car keys, volunteer activities they love, hobbies they can no longer maintain and the checkbook can offer an empowered sense of self.

If you have been diagnosed, or are a family member and unable to do this for your loved one, you can contact a Daily Money Manager who can fill this roll.

With billions at risk, take some time to ensure someone is minding the finances. I hope these options help you and your loved ones. Suggested.

Gaining Mom’s trust.

Many of us have been seeing a parent struggle with their memory and ability to manage their own affairs long before there is ever a diagnosis.

It took time for my Mom to adapt to having me pay the bills and help her. She felt that she was managing just fine. My Dad recognized she was having trouble and asked me to help. When I started I had trouble learning how to assist without offending my Mom. My Mom never recognized that the stroke she had impacted her memory or her ability to manage. She would tell me her “brain is bad today” but that wasn’t impacting her ability to manage her life (in her own mind). When I reminded her that she did have a stroke, she would accuse me of making it up.

I slowly worked to gain her trust by doing things in tandem that she asked for help on. I found the less I pushed, the more opportunity to help I was given.

When it came to the mail and the bills, I would take the piles of mail that were lying around and triage issues as I uncovered them. Thankfully, my parents added me to the bank account so I could reverse engineer many of their household finances. I visited with a large purse that allowed me to easily drop in piles that were dispersed around their home.

One day I walked in to visit, and my Mom had created a mail pile for me that included a bill and a check. She even put a label on the pile for me. Earned.

There is a Statute of Limitations on IRS Refunds

timemoneyIt physically pains me to find someone, through oversight or because of overwhelming life events, failed to do what was needed to get the refund to which they were entitled to receive from the IRS.

I just learned this when a client was told by the IRS that the 2014 and 2015 returns she eventually filed were submitted too late to allow her to receive the nearly $12,000 she was entitled to receive. She thought her life partner had filed these when we started working together. Unfortunately, he never did file them or ask for an extension.

According to I.R.C. Section 6511(a) “Claim must be filed within 3 years from the time the return was filed or 2 years from the time the tax was paid, whichever of such periods expires the later, or if no return was filed by the taxpayer, within 2 years from the time the tax was paid.”  There are things like extension requests that help your timing. Check with an accountant to learn more about this if you might be in this boat.

At least half of the families I have worked with find out that taxes didn’t get filed. The early signs of dementia are subtle and the individual may believe they are doing all the right things. It usually takes a couple big financial mistakes before people realize their loved one is unable to really manage their financial affairs.

If you are not sure if the taxes have been addressed, you can request transcripts from the IRS here.

Caring for a loved one can be overwhelming. If you need some help looking into this and no one is able to help, you could find a local Daily Money Manager who can help out. If you have a lot of medical expenses, the few hundred dollars it might take to hire them to help will more than be repaid when you receive your refund. If you can’t find one in your area, let me know. There are several members of my team that can assist with this remotely.  Recommended. 

 

 

Simplify your Finances – Healthy Habit 30

keepitsimpleThe final and one of my all-time favorite habits — and what I made a career out of — is simplifying finances. It is easy to get a new credit card, and often even to open up a new bank account. As our priorities change and our income grows, we often forget or fail to get rid of unwanted credit cards and bank accounts, we no longer use.

Your life will be infinitely easier if you are only managing a few accounts. Today, most of us have a wide array of bill pay vendors we use. While I started out my adult life with one phone utility, I now have a home phone and internet provider,  mobile phone provider, radio service for my car, and a DirectTV for home entertainment. The array of new services fostered by technology has made many aspects of our financial lives more complex.

The number of accounts, services, and vendors I work with has quadrupled. What I am trying to minimize is the number of financial institutions I work with to make what is already overwhelming feel more manageable.

I hope you will take a few minutes to inventory your financial service providers and credit card accounts. Can you whittle them down? It will make your financial roadmap simpler and minimize the time needed to manage your assets.

If you don’t really know of all the credit card accounts you have in your name, you could run a credit report. Here is a whole summary of your options and how to get your free credit report.

Streamlining this aspect of your life will save you time, energy, and minimize your stress. It will also make it easy for someone to step in and help you when you need it. And most likely, we will all need that help at some point in our lives. Witnessed. 

Organize your Finances and Accounts – Healthy Habit #19

Everyone who has had to step in and help a loved one knows how difficult it is to make sense of someone else’s finances.

Most couples can remember a time when they needed to access an account but were unable to because it was in the other person’s name. The phone and utility companies don’t care if you are married or on the home title or mortgage.

It will take some time and organization to make it easy for someone to access, but the reality is that for every adult I have worked with, all of your important information can fit into a 2” ring binder. Filing cabinets become organized dumping grounds for our personal papers and most people will admit they often have trouble finding their own information in the system they set up for themselves.

You can download a free guide to walk you through how to organize your binder here. If you want a workbook that will walk you through this process you can find it on Amazon (it’s less than $17).

Having it organized will save you time, and once it’s done, it’s easy to stay on top of the organization. One of the most important things you can do, is to create a simple roadmap of your finances. Many households have multiple bank accounts and often those people who would step in to help don’t know which account the income drops into and which account is step up to pay the mortgage, long-term care insurance, or even auto-pay utilities or other services on which you rely. Here is a simple example:

financialMap

It’s very basic, but can easily provide you with an easy way to understand your account set up and the interconnections between your financial assets.

Getting this done will benefit you now by saving you time in the long-run, and benefit you later if someone does need to step in and help you.

I started doing this organization when I was caring for my parents. It took me over a year to get a handle on all of the accounts and finances. I wanted to make sure that when my siblings visited, they could easily step in to help me. It was the origin of my business MemoryBanc. I  hope you will access the free resources to set up a system that will benefit you and your family. Shared.

Review Your Credit Card Charges Every Month – Healthy Habit 16

creditcardstatement

Credit card fraud where a card is not present for the transaction was $4.57 billion in 2016 and increasing every year. Cyber pickpockets have made checking your statement monthly a necessity of being a credit card holder. I have set up an alert on my card so that every time it is used, I get a text notice.

The nonprofit Merchant Risk Council estimates that 80 percent of credit cards in people’s wallets have been compromised.  From a skimmer at the gas station to malware on a merchant card site to the data breach at Equifax – assume your card information has been exposed to criminals.

In the past few years, I have been able to save clients thousands of dollars in the first few months by just reviewing their past credit card statements. From monthly charges for services they don’t recognize or use, to purchases they never made but never reported. I shiver at the suggestion of setting up a credit card on an automated payment plan.

That automated system continues to roll and too often no one is minding the store. No matter what your financial resources, most of us would be upset to know we are paying for things we don’t use or never received. Warned.

Learn Something New Every Year – Healthy Habit #7

I am petrified of retiring. I know that I am most comfortable with a schedule and task to tackle. In working as a Daily Money Manager, I also work with a variety of very accomplished and educated individuals in retirement. While some are happy with their lifestyle, a segment are frustrated or losing step with the pace of change going on around them.

We all need purpose and meaning in our daily lives, and I think in some ways we believe retirement is a time to be free of responsibility … which also contributes back to purpose and meaning. The science seems to tell us that our brain also follows the “use it or lose it” philosophy.

A recent story in Science News reported that Learning Multiple Things Simultaneously Increases Cognitive Abilities in Older Adults. After just 1.5 months learning multiple tasks in a new study, participants increased their cognitive abilities to levels similar to those of middle-aged adults, 30 years younger. Control group members, who did not take classes, showed no change in their performance.

For now, my day job challenges me to problem solve and learn new skills to better run my business. When it’s time to transition from a full-time job, I plan to find at least part-time volunteer and educational opportunities to feed my love of learning … which may also help me maintain my cognitive health.

A Forbes article from earlier this year — Can University Retirement Communities Reverse Aging discusses how a new model for retirement called a “University Based Retirement Communities,” or “UBRCs, is reshaping how many are moving into their post-career lifestyle.

I still have a teen at home and admit that I loved the freedom I had living at college. While I spent a bulk of my time learning, I also had easy access to friends and social engagement. I could see really enjoying a URBC environment when it’s time for me to transition out of running a full-time business.

Most places in the United States have community centers that offer a wide range of classes. In our area, we also have both a local university and local college that offer Lifelong Learning classes for older adults.

You could also combine learning with exercise and try out Yoga, a spin class, or even Pickleball (which is my latest hobby).

As we age and our friends move away or make a celestial departure, it’s hard to build new friendships, but taking a class can at least help you meet people who share a common interest and might be a good way to make a new friend.

There are many benefits to learning at every age. I hope this might give you a reason to try something new. Encouraged.

Happy Healthy Aging Month 2019

healthyagingmonthSeptember is Healthy Aging Month. It is defined as a time to celebrate life and help individuals gain a more positive outlook about growing older. This topic is always on my mind as a Daily Money Manager. Everyday, I work with adults over 50+ and see how the choices made and not made impact an individual’s ability to live well.

After having cared for two parent’s with different dementia’s, I am passionate about how to best navigate aging, balance independence, and maximize purpose and meaning in life.

I believe that our habits will help us live independently longer. But many of us don’t have the habits needed to gracefully manage aging well so I am going to offer up daily suggestions this month to how we can best age gracefully and with dignity.

What you do now and the habits you create can make a huge difference to how you live the rest of your life. Recommended.

Giving Back the Checkbook

You know the feeling of helplessness when you don’t have any cash in your pocket and the thing you want requires cash? Well imagine if your loved ones took away your ability to buy things when you feel like you are making good choices.

In my job as a Daily Money Manager, I work for individuals who have usually been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment or even a specific form of dementia. Usually, at the request of a family member they call and invite me to come meet. They don’t understand why the family is concerned.

I start by asking them how they feel things are going. The response is usually more of “I am managing” and then they usually confess they know they have made “a few over/under payments.” I explain how my job is to help them feel confident in their bill payments and cash flow management. Ultimately, I work to help them feel empowered by continuing to pay bills together.

If I see there is a big concern over exposure to fraud or predatory service providers, I will set up a new checking account. It allows the individual to have a checkbook but the amount of money that is at risk is limited to the money in the account. NOTE: Do not set up overdraft protection but allow the checks to bounce.

A second option is the TrueLink Card. It is basically a funded gift card that you can apply protections to like turning off the ability to charge fees for jewelry, liquor, or phone charges (there are over 20 categories you can tweak). You can see what has been purchased. It does have some complications and limitations as I have seen. One client has had the card fail when he was trying to buy a watch battery (deemed as jewelry) as well as was not able to get his favorite local cheese at the Farmer’s Market because they were using a portable pay device (deemed as a phone charge). I have been able to customize the options and pre-approve that favorite cheese vendor, but when he is at the market, he needs the card to work and it doesn’t always.

At the end of the day, what we want is for our loved one to have meaning and purpose and often, taking away the money can strip them of some independence they deserve.

Is there a way for you to give back that power to a loved one and help them regain a sense of self? Hoped.