Financial Caregiving 101

How Family Caregivers Can Get Help Managing Loved Ones' Finances

Cameron Huddleston
Cameron Huddleston
January 18, 2024
How Family Caregivers Can Get Help Managing Loved Ones' Finances

If you’re caring for parents or aging loved ones, there’s a good chance that you’re helping them stay on top of their finances. More than half of family caregivers who are looking after an aging relative assist with money matters, according to AARP’s Caregiving in the U.S. report. 

This aspect of caregiving can be time consuming. It can even be overwhelming for those who don’t have strong money management skills or much experience with financial decision making. 

However, family caregivers need to know that there are tools, resources and support systems that can help them stay on top of their loved ones’ finances. 

Resources to help manage financial affairs for someone else

Start by educating yourself on the basics of managing someone else’s money. You want to make sure you understand how to legally access your loved one’s accounts and what steps to take to protect your loved one’s financial well-being.

Fortunately, there are plenty of free resources available that can guide you through best practices for handling money matters for someone else. 

  • Carefull’s Financial Caregiving Roadmap is a beginner’s guide to managing a loved one’s finances that covers the various stages of involvement, from having conversations to gather financial details to offering assistance to fully handling all financial matters
  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has guides to managing someone else’s money. These guides are tailored to caregivers who fall into four different types of roles: power of attorney, trustee, court-appointed guardians and government fiduciaries.
  • Carefull’s Checklist for Managing Your Elderly Parents’ Finances is a step-by-step guide for taking control of money matters for a loved one.

Tools to help manage financial affairs for someone else

There are a variety of products, services and online tools that can make it easier to organize and protect your loved ones’ daily finances. 

Automated bill pay: If you’re caring for parents or aging loved ones, there’s a good chance that they are not using automatic recurring payments for all of their bills. A survey by payment company Fiserv found that only 23% of consumers use autopay for as many bills as possible. Setting up automatic payments through your loved ones’ bank or service providers will make it easier for you to ensure that their bills are paid on time each month.

Account monitoring: Small problems can go undetected and become big issues if you wait until the end of each month to review account statements. It’s better to keep constant tabs on your loved one’s accounts. A service such as Carefull makes this easy with 24/7 monitoring and alerts when unusual transactions, signs of fraud and money mistakes such as late payments, duplicate payments and changes in spending are detected. You can try Carefull for free for 30 days to monitor your loved one’s bank, credit card and investment accounts.

Prepaid cards: If you’re worried about your loved ones’ spending, a prepaid card is a good budgeting tool. They can only spend up to the amount loaded on the card—which you could load for them to determine the spending limit. Not only will this protect them from overspending, but also it will protect them from giving away too much money to scammers if it’s the only form of payment they have.  All of the major credit card companies offer prepaid cards.

Credit and identity monitoring: Checking your loved ones’ credit reports at will help you get a better picture of their finances because you’ll be able to see all loans and lines of credit that they have, amounts owed and the status of those accounts. It also will help you detect signs of fraud if there are any suspicious accounts opened in their names. You can increase the chance of catching identity theft when it happens by signing your loved ones’ up for credit and identity monitoring services that can detect any changes in their credit report and misuse of their personal information. Carefull includes credit monitoring, identity monitoring and up to $1 million in identity theft insurance.

Password manager: Creating strong passwords for all of your loved ones’ online accounts and keeping track of them can be a challenge. Consider using an online password manager service that can generate and securely store passwords, such as the one included with the Carefull Vault feature. The digital Vault also can be used to store your loved ones’ important legal and financial documents so that you can access them easily.

Online wealth management service: If you need help managing your loved ones’ retirement accounts and investments, services such as Betterment, Empower (formerly Personal Capital) and Wealthfront provide investment management tools and access to advisors for lower fees than wealth management and financial advisor firms charge. 

Professionals who can help

Getting help from professionals has several benefits. For starters, your loved ones (especially parents) might be more willing to listen to recommendations from an unbiased third party about handing over financial tasks to you. More importantly, working with professionals can ensure that you’re handling your loved ones’ finances properly.

Elder law attorney: An elder law attorney can draft legal documents such as a power of attorney and health care power of attorney that will give you the right to make financial and medical decisions for your loved ones. An elder law attorney also can help your loved ones qualify for long-term care benefits through Medicaid or the Department of Veterans Affairs. You can find a Certified Elder Law Attorney through the National Elder Law Foundation.

Tax preparer: A certified public accountant or enrolled agent can help you prepare tax returns for your loved ones. The American Institute of CPAs has a Find a CPA tool, and the National Association of Enrolled Agents has an online Find a Tax Expert Directory.

Daily money manager: A daily money manager can help you manage your loved ones’ everyday finances, such as paying bills, budgeting, reviewing insurance claims and record keeping. You can find one through the American Association of Daily Money Managers.

Financial advisor: A financial advisor can create a solid financial plan for your loved ones’ to ensure they live comfortably in retirement and have the resources to pay for any care they might need. Look for an advisor with a Certified Financial Planner™ certification, which  requires extensive training, experience and a commitment to act as a fiduciary. Search for fee-only fiduciary advisors using a free service such as Wealthramp, the Garrett Planning Network and the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors

See: How to Help Your Parents Hire a Financial Advisor 

Aging life care professional: Also known as geriatric care managers, these professionals help with a range of services related to aging, including financial tasks such as bill paying, insurance claims and providing information on government benefit programs. You can find an aging life care expert through the Aging Life Care Association.

Bottom line

Managing someone else’s finances can be challenging. However, it’s not something you need to do entirely on your own. Taking advantage of the resources, tools and professionals listed above can make financial caregiving easier.

Keep Reading: Emergency Planning Guide for Seniors and Their Caregivers

Cameron Huddleston

Cameron Huddleston

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