As your parents age, they will probably need more help from you. But it may be difficult to provide the help they need, especially if they're experiencing financial trouble.
Money can be a sensitive subject to discuss, but you'll need to talk to your parents about it in order to get to the root of their problems and come up with a solution. Before you start the conversation, consider the following scenarios as signs that your parents might be experiencing financial challenges, and how you can make things easier for them.
1. They are at risk of falling for fraud
According to a report by the Federal Trade Commission, older adults have been targeted or disproportionately affected by fraud. Moreover, older adults have reported much higher dollar losses to certain types of fraud than younger consumers.1
Why do scammers target older individuals? There are many explanations for this trend. Some older individuals lack an awareness about major financial issues. Others may be attractive targets for scammers because they have access to retirement account assets or have built up home equity. Additional factors that increase an older adult's vulnerability to scams include cognitive decline and isolation from family and friends.
2. They aren't used to managing finances
The loss of a spouse can create many challenges for the survivor, especially if the deceased spouse was in charge of finances. Many widows or widowers might find themselves keeping track of statements, paying bills, budgeting, and handling other financial matters for the first time, which can be a complicated reality to face.
3. They struggle with change
As financial institutions continue to innovate and increase online and mobile access to customer accounts, it can be difficult for older consumers to keep up. For example, some older adults may struggle with accessing their financial information online. Others might get frustrated or confused when financial institutions implement new policies and procedures, especially if they've had an account with an institution for decades.
One report described the most common issues that older consumers identified with bank accounts or services. The top three complaints involved account management (47%), deposits and withdrawals (27%), and problems caused by low funds (12%).2
How you can help
Regardless of the reasons why your parents might be facing financial challenges, here are steps you can take to help them.
- Look for big and small ways that they can scale back on expenses, such as downsizing to a smaller home, cutting cable plans, or canceling unnecessary memberships/subscriptions.
- Have them tested for dementia if you've noticed behavioral or memory changes in one or both of your parents.
- Provide financial assistance in a structured way, such as paying your parents' expenses directly rather than giving them cash.
- Help them apply for assistance. The National Council on Aging has a website, BenefitsCheckUp.org, that can help you determine your parents' eligibility for federal, state, and private benefit programs.
If your parents don't have a financial advisor, you may also want to encourage them to meet with your financial advisor to help them evaluate their financial situation and recommend solutions you can implement together.
Joelle Spear is a financial advisor located at Canby Financial Advisors, 161 Worcester Road, Framingham, MA 01701. She offers securities and advisory services as an Investment Adviser Representative of Commonwealth Financial Network®, Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser. She can be reached at 508.598.1082 or at [email protected]
Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2019. Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. does not provide investment, tax, legal, or retirement advice or recommendations. The information presented here is not specific to any individual's personal circumstances.
1Protecting Older Consumers: 2017-2018, Federal Trade Commission, 2018
2Monthly Complaint Report, Vol. 23, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, May 2017