Simple Steps to Safe Guard a Loved Ones Finances

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 the suggestion that she was unable to manage a checkbook safely was something that needed to be left unsaid. I found that out after I said it a few times. ; <

The biggest problem I faced was a lost purse that contained the checkbook. She thought she left it in a cab, a store, at a bridge game … I couldn’t manage the hours each week spent looking for her purse. Today you can at least get a tile which would have been immensely helpful in keeping track of her handbag, but it wasn’t an option yet.

There are options to consider if your loved one would like to continue to manage their purchases:

  • Open up a new checking account and fund it with a small amount of money that can afford to be lost. I did this for my Mom. She had her checkbook, and I could move money into her account in small amounts as it needed to be replenished. If the checkbook never turned up or she had a check stolen we could easily close the account.
  • Consider setting up a TrueLink card. It is basically a 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.

Unfortunately, I have recently had clients both at home and living in communities be 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 the past month, I have reported three caregivers for violating this condition of employment. Sadly, I know they will just turn up at another agency.

What I struggled with was that this was one of the few remaining freedoms for my mom. She could no longer drive, or run the bridge games she loved, and that checkbook gave her an empowered sense of self. Now as a Daily Money Manager, I see all the ways that people are trying to get at the money of my clients.

Ultimately, someone needs to be vigilant about minding the finances as well as considering how to layer in these protections. A few bad apples spoil the lot. Reported.

That checkbook equals independence

I still remember using my first credit card to buy clothes for myself when I was around 21 years old. I can visualize the pair of novelty socks that were going to look good with my “dressy” shorts. Yeah, I’ve never been that great when it comes to fashion, but I recall those socks as my first adult purchase on a credit card.

Q4HelpingParentsNow that I work with older adults on a daily basis and help them manage their day-to-day finances, I see how much that checkbook represents. I’ve included a video where I was asked about how someone should talk to a loved one about managing the money and when to recommend a Daily Money Manager.

I recall the frustration I felt when I watched my parents giving away money to a zillion charities they never had an interest in before … missing to pay the water bill … or being asked how you put a check into your checking account. Add to that the number of times my Mom lost her wallet just to fuel my concern … and aggravation. Dealing with numbers and following a multi-step process can be one of the first things you see failing in a loved one with cognitive issues. The consequences can be devastating to financial resources.

Every year, the National Council on Aging estimates more than $36 Billion is lost due to exploitation, fraud, and trust abuse. On a weekly basis, I meet with clients who are giving away money they need to pay for their care, paying for products and services they don’t use, and generally a disinterest in the implications of giving that money to people they never intended to assist.

However, before you tell your loved one they need to hand-over the checkbook, consider what that means to them. If you are concerned, you should start by spending the time to walk through the day-to-day finances with them — help them write checks and manage the cash flow. If you can’t do it, you should be able to find a Daily Money Manager in your area that can help on the website for the American Association of Daily Money Managers.

I hope you will consider how much your loved one has already lost, and don’t be to hasty to take away what might represent to them their last vestige of independence. Recommended. 



Why Auto-Debit is a Bad Idea.

autopayI understand how easy it is to “set-it and forget it” so you never miss a payment.  However, in reality, you have set up a system that no one is minding and there are many ways for scams and fraud to sneak into your life.

I have talked with adult children who have either helped mom and dad set this up to avoid missing or late payments, as well as heard from older adults that this is their plan B should they have a crisis.

It seems like a simple solution, but I want you to be forewarned that there are risks associated. Last year I started working with a new client to find that she was still paying for Juno.  Yeah, she was paying $9.95 a month for dial-up service, even through she had wifi in her home and had for years. We also found a monthly “shipping service” billing her $24.95 monthly she didn’t use, and several hundred dollars in ongoing charitable contributions she didn’t realize she was making.  If you want to set up an auto-debit, do it for an amount that will cover the minimum payment and plan to review the statements before you pay the balance.

In an audit of 20 new clients, I had only one that did’t have a variety of charges on their credit account they couldn’t explain. As we investigate those charges, they realize they were paying for things they don’t use, or worse, never recalled subscribing to ongoing payments.

What’s the harm? Over the course of a year, it’s typically over one thousand dollars. In a few cases this year, I had clients who it was costing several thousands dollars a year. Charities, face creams, supplements, a shipping service, iTunes/App subscriptions … it’s easy to get lost in the list of charges. The scammers are crafty.

I understand wanting to simplify and make things easier, but when it comes to money, you need to make sure someone is minding your finances, or you may find there are several sticky fingers in the till.

If you have a loved one that needs some help, Daily Money Managers are insured and guided by professional ethics to represent their clients best interests. I have yet to find a client where I didn’t save them more money than my time cost. Here is a link to a directory of professionals in the United States. Referred.  



As we age, changes in our brain make us more susceptible to exploitation.

ImpactofFraudHallie Swift is a poet with a keen eye for art, and she recently blogged about what happened to her mom. One of the comments in her story discussed how the changes in our brains as we age make us more susceptible to fraud and exploitation.

In working with older adults to manage their day-to-day finances, the onslaught of scams and ploys to get their money is never ending. For my oldest clients, we usually start by going through the mail together. The amount of non-profits that use language to convey a prior commitment to give saddens me as a former non-profit marketing professional. These are used even by the top-notch charities. They know that the “greatest generation” meets their commitments and language stating “Thanks for your pledge of $20.00” is very successful at generating donations.

If you are seeing a lot more donations, your loved one might be a victim of this tactic. I know that it worked on my parents. Their habit of giving once a year turned into checks every month.

However, the important thing to know is that the changes in our aging brains may make us all victims of some of the more serious and predatory scams that result in over 36 Billion dollars a year as reported by the National Council on Aging. I think it is valuable for all of us to know that it might be a natural consequence of getting older.

Beyond the concern to the finances is the emotional toll this takes on older adults. From additional health issues to trouble in a marriage, support around managing the checkbook might be a welcome relief to someone in your life.

For more on the full report, you can visit: Neural and behavioral bases of age differences in perceptions of trust.  In summary:

“Older adults are disproportionately vulnerable to fraud, and federal agencies have speculated that excessive trust explains their greater vulnerability.

Two studies, one behavioral and one using neuroimaging methodology, identified age differences in trust and their neural underpinnings. Older and younger adults rated faces high in trust cues similarly, but older adults perceived faces with cues to
untrustworthiness to be significantly more trustworthy and approachable than younger adults. This age-related pattern was mirrored in neural activation to cues of trustworthiness. Whereas younger adults showed greater anterior insula activation to untrustworthy versus trustworthy faces, older adults showed muted activation of the anterior insula to untrustworthy faces. The insula has been shown to support interoceptive awareness that forms the basis of “gut feelings,” which represent expected risk and predict risk-avoidant behavior. Thus, a diminished “gut” response to cues
of untrustworthiness may partially underlie older adults’ vulnerability to fraud.”

Aging ain’t for sissies. I hope this helps you consider how you might help a loved one as well as consider how to protect yourself in the years to come. Considered. 

Five Reasons To Get Financial Support

checkbookI realized how much control of the checkbook meant to my mom. While I was terrified she was going to be taken advantage of … she was totally unconcerned over the idea that she might lose her wallet. The reality was that she didn’t remember ever misplacing her wallet or purse.

What I came to learn was that the biggest threat to her financial security was not what most expect. It was the number of non-profits that wanted to get a few dollars to fund their mission. It felt good to my mother to be able to send off $25 to a charity.

A recent family asked me to step in and help their mom. We were all shocked to find that she was giving away over $2,000 every month in $25 and $30 increments. While mom was resistant to help, she was surprised to learn how much she was giving away every month and had not realized how quickly those small amounts accumulated. She now holds the bills and we work together once a week to pay bills and balance the checkbook.

If you have concerns over these issues, bring in a daily money manager can help. Not only can having a third-party mitigate any sibling/family concerns, but it also offers five other benefits:

  1. You can be the daughter/son. I realized that I was spending hours every week dealing with bills, medical details, and following up on a host of random items that I would have rather not been doing. I would have preferred to be able to just hang out with mom.
  2. You can empower your loved ones longer. Taking out the personal family history can help in finding simple solutions to manageing the money. You can just suggest they try it for a month and see if it helps to have a second set of eyes if you are noticing bills going un-paid or being over-paid. As tax season approaches, it might be a good time to try out some extra help.
  3. You have info you need if a community is considered. If you consider moving a loved one into a life care or retirement community, they will require a summary of personal assets. How quickly would you be able to pull that information together, and might it make mom or dad anxious if you were going through their papers?
  4. Real numbers to compare costs. Most people assume a retirement or assisted living community is instantly more expensive. In several cases, I have found it was less costly than keeping a loved in their home and bringing all of the care and services to them. Find out how and when you might consider a community option.
  5. Fraud and scam avoidance. One of the things a daily money manager will do is reconcile the checking account and monitor the credit card for extraneous charges. For one client, we found that the bank had deducted $1,000 more than the actual checks value. While the adult child was monitoring the account from across the country, they couldn’t know the actual amount of the invoice to know that $1,000 too much was debited from dad’s account.

After serving in this role for mom and dad for five years, I realized that I would exchange some of the money I inherited at mom’s death for free time and mother-daughter time had I known what I now know. Recognized. 

If you want to find a daily money manager in your area, check out American Association of Daily Money Managers (AADMM).




Worried about your Parent, their Forgetfulness, and Money?

Me with my Mom last Fall on our way out to shop at the grocery store.

If a parent or other loved one develops dementia, a risk that grows with age, finances can present a big problem. In fact, you may have to step in to make sure your mom or dad doesn’t  rack up credit card debt or even go broke.

That’s what happened to Kay Bransford, an author and entrepreneur in Virginia, after her mom and dad both developed dementia. When a home contractor tried to charge her parents more than $5,000 for needed repairs, more than five times the going rate, Bransford acted quickly to cancel the contract …

Read more:

Free Financial Protection Kit from

Take a moment to download a few of the publications that will provide some guidance on protecting your finances at

Of particular interest are the publications for Planning for Your Future that include how to be money smart and avoid financial exploitation, a guide to managing someone else’s money (I included a copy with my estate planning docs and shared it with the individual that would act as my agent if my husband and I were incapacitated), and a guide to long-term care insurance.

Learning about your finances and how to protect them is worth your time. I hope you find these helpful.

Seventy percent of American’s over 65 will need long-term care

70%Wow. Ignoring the facts won’t make them go away. They seem unbelievable.

The National Clearinghouse for Long-Term Care Information reported that about 70% of Americans who live to age 65 will need long-term care at some time in their lives, over 40 percent in a nursing home. Learn more by visiting their website and to learn more about how you can plan.

The same report cited the averages: Those who are 65 today will need long-term care services for three years. Women need care for longer (on average 3.7 years) than do men (on average 2.2 years). While about one-third of today’s 65-year-olds may never need long-term care services, 20 percent of them will need care for more than five years.

The most important thing you can do today (at ANY age) is set up a Durable Power-of-Attorney. There may be situations in which even your spouse needs this document. Check with a local estate attorney.

Having your estate planning and financial plan in order is important, but more important is making sure your accounts, access codes and personal papers can be easily found by those who may need to step in and help you. Until our late 80s, we are more likely to suffer a temporary incapacity than we are to die. CNNMoney reported than more than $58 billion in unclaimed money and assets is sitting with state and federal treasurers — it’s the stuff that got lost in the shuffle of a move, personal crisis as well as death.

Here is a link to the full list of papers so you can do it yourself. If you want to be prompted through the process in a workbook format, you can order a MemoryBanc Register. Use the term “Reader” for a 10% discount on your order. Alerted.