Warning Signs That Your Parent’s Finances Are Off Track

One activity of daily living that can get off track is that associated with a senior dealing with his or her financial issues. Memory issues may be involved. However, there can be many other reasons why an elderly parent is not dealing with his or her finances in a suitable manner. With that said, there are some commonplace signs that your parent’s finances are running off the rails in some way or another. These include:

  • Unopened mail
  • Creditors call family members
  • Complaints about not having enough money
  • Unexpected purchases (usually expensive)
  • Physical or mental issues impacting other aspects of life
  • Significant life change
  • Unexpected applications for credit cards or loans

Unopened Mail

Time and again, the most frequently occurring indicator that a senior’s finances are off track is unopened mail. If you see unopened mail piling up in your parent’s home, you may want to politely broach the subject of whether or not your mother or father is “keeping up with the mail.” By taking this gentler tact, you can ease into a reasoned discussion about staying current with bills.

Creditors Call Family Members

Legalities of creditors contacting family members aside, another warning sign that your parent may be having issues managing finances is creditors calling you or other family members. You will want to mention that creditors are immediately calling your parent’s attention. This information may prompt your parent to act at least by reaching out to you for assistance in getting things better organized. Keep in mind that in many instances, unpaid bills are not for lack of funds. It’s the result of confusion, disorganization, and similar issues.

Complaints About Not Having Enough Money

Another sign that an older individual’s finances might be off track is recurring complaints (or even sudden ones) about not having enough money. The reality of adequate funds availability may or may not be the case. However, if a statement about not having enough money comes out of the left field or persists over a period of time, you need to pursue the issue further and attempt to get to the real root of the problem.

Unexpected Purchases (Usually Expensive)

When you learn that your parent is making unexpected purchases that typically are expensive as well as unnecessary, this can be indicative of your parent having issues with financial management. While a competent senior parent cannot be begrudged for making purchases he or she desires (if a parent can afford them), if your mother or father seems to be on something of a buying binge or begins to make purchases out of his or her historical norm, a deeper dive into the state of your parent’s financial management might be in order.

Physical or Mental Issues Impacting Other Aspects of Life

Different physical or mental issues may underpin an older person’s finances, becoming out of kilter. The most common type of condition of this nature that can negatively impact an older person’s financial management is more progressive dementia or some other type of memory or cognitive issue. If a cognitive problem underlies financial management issues, the time may have arrived for your parent to have more direct assistance in managing financial affairs.

Significant Life Change

Another sign that your parent may be having financial management problems might be traced to a major life change. Chief among these is the death of a spouse. This is mainly the case if the deceased spouse historically was the individual who dealt with a majority of financial matters. That said, the grieving process following a spouse’s death can also put the surviving spouse’s finances into a chaotic state.

Unexpected Applications for Credit Cards or Loans

An indicator that your senior parent is having financial management problems can also be found in unexpected applications for credit cards or even loans. An older person might seek out additional credit because he or she perceives bills are piling – whether they actually are or not.

How You Can Assist Your Senior Parent Manage Finances

In conclusion, there are some solid, practical ways in which you can assist your parent who appears to be having issues dealing with finances:

  • Discuss the possibility of appointing a financial power of attorney proactively. Even before any issues arise, see if your parent might be willing to give someone trusted this authority. This will give you or another responsible family member the legal ability to manage their finances. A parent must be legally competent to create a power of attorney.
  • Be observant, listen, and learn to recognize subtle changes in daily functioning. This necessitates maintaining regular, consistent, and close contact with your parent.
  • Encourage your mother and father to use a trustworthy professional for assistance with taxes and investments. This becomes particularly important if you do not live nearby or lack experience in these areas.
  • Take a genuine interest in the life of your mother or father. Get a good idea about whom they talk to or see on a regular basis. In addition to strangers, friends, relatives, and caregivers can all take advantage of a senior’s generosity or vulnerability.
  • Add your parent to the National Do Not Call Registry. This is designed to add a layer of protection from telemarketers. Be sure to register your parent’s landline and cell phone numbers. You can register your parents’ phone numbers at www.donotcall.gov.
  • Make yourself available to help. If you do not manage your own money well, take this as an opportunity to improve your financial health together.
  • Offer to assist with home repairs or major purchases to ensure they don’t get scammed. These can be areas in which older Americans are particularly vulnerable.
  • Ensure that their mail is checked regularly and opened. Keep an eye out for piles of unopened envelopes, late notices, and the nature of their outgoing correspondence. Report any mail scams like sweepstakes, free prizes, vacations, and fake donation requests to the U.S. Postal Service.
  • Watch for inappropriate and excessive purchases like beauty and health products, subscriptions, or unnecessary amounts of a product.
  • Keep in mind that it is still your parent’s money. As long as your mother or father is competent, he or she has the right to choose how to spend money. Your parent is “entitled” to make his or her own mistakes. Your goal needs to be to help your mother or father retain independence and financial security for as long as possible.