Financial Wellness of our Seniors

As published in the December 2016 issue of Balance, a Manitoba Teachers’ Society publication.

By 2021, 22.8% of Canadians will be 65 years of age and older. Do we feel prepared as children and grand-children to help guide and protect them and their finances through their later years of life?

Senior woman meeting with agentThrough the busyness of our own lives, we need to keep in mind that managing finances will become increasingly difficult for our parents and grandparents as they age. When a person ages they can easily lose sight of how to handle money, and even a financially astute person can quickly move to a state of being unable to cope with their finances. If this isn’t recognized it can be very stressful and costly for the elder.

Older adults who have recently experienced a loss of a spouse, and are lonely, can be vulnerable. In many situations they had previously had a partner to review and discuss money matters, to protect each other, and to make good common sense decisions. Alone they can be easily victimized.

It may be hard to believe, but it is most often those close to the elder who take advantage of them financially. It could be a multitude of people in the individual’s life: a child who feels they have been unfairly treated and want their fair share sooner than later, a grandchild needing money to support a habit, a neighbor who is struggling with their finances, or even a care provider. The concern is that it can be anyone.

Once we are aware of just how vulnerable a senior can be, we need to put some checks and balances in place.

The starting point is to have a family member who can act as the point person or “go to person”. The senior needs to feel comfortable to divert calls from sales people etc. to the point person to respond. This provides the senior with a simple, stress free way to pass on the situation without being pressured into quick decisions that can be difficult to reverse with costly consequences.

Personally, I have seen just how many calls a widowed spouse gets after her husband’s obituary is posted in the newspaper, and how a nephew can easily swindle $100,000 out of an elderly uncle who was once very astute with his finances.

Another key check and balance that should be considered is a monthly or quarterly review of the elder’s finances. This can include reviewing their bank statement, credit card statements, etc. If they are apprehensive you may have to simply say that you are looking for errors to ensure that none of their money has gone missing, and to ensure that all the purchases on credit belong to them.

It is also very important to put together a Will and Power of Attorney while the elder is still competent. Our ultimate goal is to help our parents and grandparents feel safe in all aspects of their life, including their finances.