Sometimes managing your own budget can seem overwhelming at best. House. Kids. Savings. Retirement. There is a lot to learn and understand just to make the right choices for you and your family.
Then something happens that makes you take a greater interest in your mom’s budget too. That adds even more questions to your already busy life. Is there enough money for medical expenses? What about paying for future care? It’s enough to overwhelm anybody.
A lot of the overwhelm comes from not being prepared. A few simple steps can help conquer your fears and make it easier to help your mom.
Your first step is getting a complete list of everything your mom has in her name. The more complete this list is, the less likely you’ll have something slip through the cracks. Start by going through her files – look for statements, bills, and other paperwork that can alert you to activity. Look for checking accounts, savings accounts, retirement accounts, pension programs. You’ll also want to locate home mortgages, and other real estate holdings. Find all insurance policies, including supplemental health insurance, life insurance, home policies, long-term care insurance, and annuities. You should also discuss other legal matters, such as if they have safety deposit boxes, wills, power of attorneys, stock, etc.
Power of attorney
If you don’t already have power of attorney, now is the time to get it. It’s a much easier process if your mom willingly enters into the agreement with you. Work with an attorney who understands the process. He or she can advise you on matters you may not have considered before.
Gain access to all accounts
Once you have power of attorney, call or visit with representatives you’ll be frequenting the most. Sometimes banks and other financial institutions have their own forms to fill out to give you access. If you can do that with your mom, it will make this process easier too.
Update all accounts and information
This is a perfect time to ensure your mom was on top of all account information. When was the last time she updated her will? Is the right information listed? For instance, if your dad has passed away but is still listed as an account holder or as a beneficiary, now is the time to adjust documentation to ensure you don’t have more trouble in the future.
Think about the future
By starting early, it also gives you a chance to speak with your mom on her wishes and desires. If she has specific requirements, why not create a new will? Or look at funding different accounts to make sure her desires are met? It’s much easier making plans with her rather than fighting for access when situations turn worse.
This also gives you a chance to look at her investment strategies. Are there other opportunities she might not be aware of? Is she taking on too much risk for her age?
Make suggestions gently; it is still up to her. But if you both become more comfortable taking on additional responsibilities early in the process, it can make all the difference long term.