I recently spoke to a local Rotary about my best tips, as an experienced financial organizer / daily money manager, for working effectively with seniors on their financial paperwork.
Not everyone chooses, as I have, to make working with clients and their paperwork their career. But, with the aging population, you may find that you are called in help a senior with their personal financial life. A quick survey of my Rotary audience revealed that one member has a client who is 102, while another has a family friend of the same age!)
If you find yourself in that spot, here are 3 essential tips:
Tip #1: Get buy-in.
It won’t work to step in and say to Mom, Dad, or Mr. Smith: “This is what you have to do.” Instead, start with asking questions. Then listen closely to what you hear back:
- What’s important to the person sitting across from you?
- Where have there been problems? Where would they welcome assistance?
- What do they HATE to do? Each one of us, no matter our age, has a financial organizing task (or two) that we hate to do and would love to pass on to someone else. Start there!
Avoid the temptation to make changes (improvements) right away. Aim for documenting what is already being done—from names of institutions, to a list of bills being paid automatically, and more. A road map with that information is a big step in the right direction.
My point is that I can’t get started until a client gives me the go-ahead. And that goes for anyone, whether they are paid or not, who wants to step in to help.
Tip #2: Don’t delay getting key legal documents in place.
I am NOT an attorney, but this is something I always ask clients about early in our work together. Be sure they have a Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy in place. Get the POA signed and to the bank and other key financial institutions so when bills come in and the usual bill payer is not able to pay them, they still can get paid. The Health Care Proxy should be kept handy and also in the hands of the person named along with their health care preferences.
Tip #3: Reach out for help. Get a neutral third party — a professional — on board.
I often get asked by clients’ sons and daughters: How can you be so patient? How do you answer the same question over and over again—always with a smile?
My response: I have the time, the specialized training and the experience to do this work And I love it! I don’t have the emotional baggage and sometimes-checkered history that a family member might bring to the task.
A financial organizer / daily money manager is one type of professional experienced with working with seniors—when the challenge is bill paying and paperwork. But there are many others available to assist seniors and ease the load on those stepping in to help. Seek out a Geriatric Care Manager (Aging Life Care Professional), Dementia Coach, or a Senior Move Manager, for example, depending on the need you see. And when you see a need, please circle back to Tip #1: Get the (all-important) buy-in.