by Barbara Parrott McGinity, LMSW
Last April, the New York Times published an story title “As Cognition Slips, Financial Skills are the First to Go.” The article states that several studies show the ability to handle simple math and financial matters are the first skills one loses with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Then there are other studies that demonstrate that an individual’s ability to handle financial matters can begin to decline in their 50’s.
Here are some startling statistics. There are 44.7 million people 65 and older, representing 14 percent of the population, and this number will grow to an estimated 66 million in 10 years. This older population has trillions of dollars in wealth, and they are frequently struggling to manage their own finances as they become increasingly vulnerable to financial exploitation.
As people are living longer, well into their 80’s and 90’s, who ends up being the primary caregiver…most likely aging children! One advisor quoted in the New York Times article said he wished that when people reach 65, they would simplify their investments. But what we have are 65 years olds managing both their own finances and the finances of parents and loved ones who no can no longer handle even the basics of paying monthly bills. In other words, it doesn’t get less complicated only more complicated.
Becoming the financial caregiver can be challenging. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has developed a set of guides to help you “Managing Someone Else’s Money.” These guides provide information on:
• Agents under a power of attorney
• Court-appointed guardians of property and conservators
• Government-benefit fiduciaries (Social Security representative payees and VA fiduciaries).
The guides help financial caregivers in three ways: they walk them through their duties, they tell them about protecting their loved ones from financial exploitation and scams, and they tell them where to go for help. But be aware, that your power to oversee an individual’s finances does vary from state to state so make sure you know the rules in Texas and use the guides to assist in your decision making. You can always find an Elder Care Attorney through the Texas Bar Association to help you with the appropriate legal documents for Texas. The guides are available at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau website, at http://www.cfpb.gov.