Now, not only my own stuff, but someone else's stuff

I've been spoiled. I'm married with no children, and my husband gives up full control of the finances in exchange for the great job I do managing them. So I've only ever had to manage my OWN money, though I'm pretty obsessive about it at times (not that the obsessiveness really advances me, any).

Now, however, it's very possible that I'm about to become the money manager for my elderly (and even more obsessive) mother.

We have very similar financial philosphies (save like crazy, don't buy on credit unless absolutely necessary, don't buy what you don't need except for once in a while), so I'm not really worried about conflict. What I'm worried about is screwing it up.

Anyone else have to manage the finances (hopefully, primarily just BILL PAYING) for someone else, and have some tips?

Thanks in advance!

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Keep it high class round here

First tip is to keep the titles G-rated 'round here. More family-friendly and classier. Sorry for your challenges though.

Fixed it

one of your friendly admins
"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson)

What's "G-rated" to a woman with no kids??

Sorry -- I thought my own censorship of what I wanted to say WAS G-Rated - when you don't have kids, I guess you lose touch with the rating system!


No diaper soil, you ain't joking ! :-)


Wow -- lots of feedback - thank you all so much! Unfortunately, as I (continue to) try to learn to manage my time, I have a hard time FINDING time to read/reply. But I will. Just wanted to get a quick 'thanks' in first so y'all know I appreciate your help!


I handled my mother's

I handled my mother's finances for the last seven years of her life. Fortunately, she had nothing complicated or tricky -- mostly just regular bills to pay, checkbook to balance, an annuity to keep track of, etc.

You didn't say why you're taking over for your mom. In my case, it was due to Alzheimer's. So basically I could make reasonable predictions on how long she'd live, what assets would be needed, what kinds of insurance needed to be in place, things like that. And that, at least at first, the tricky part would be to keep her from attempting to 'handle' things herself without making her feel even worse about not being 'in control.'

Three things I did that worked out well:

1) A trip to the family lawyers to get the necessary paperwork done while she still seemed competent enough that the lawyer was willing to work with the 'being of sound mind' type of conditions. We got her will re-done (the old one was 20 years out of date), a Durable Power of Attorney, a Health Proxy, and a living will (to spell out what she did and didn't want done for her medically at the end.) We also put her real estate into trusts. The lawyer helped us arrange things so there would be no need to go through probate at all.

2) I simplified her finances as much as possible. She'd had accounts at 7(!) banks, including multiple checking and savings accounts and CDs. She had investment accounts at three firms. She had piles of US Savings bonds, many so old they weren't earning interest. Over the first couple of years I consolidated all the bank accounts down to one checking (in both our names so I could sign checks for her), and one savings (I used ING)and cashed out the bonds. As CDs matured I simply deposited the money to the savings account. With the advice of the investment firms as to timing, I closed out those accounts, putting the money into savings as well. (At the time, ING savings interest rates were just about as good as CDs, without the locked in for X years factor.)

This was very important: I got the billing address on all her utilities and credit cards etc changed to me. When the bills came to her, she would open them and often tuck them away in a book or some cubbyhole to 'deal with later.' And then she'd get insulted when I had to hunt everywhere through her stuff to find the bills. "I can take care of them myself!" OTOH, once the bills stopped coming to her, she never once realized she hadn't seen them, and I could simply pay them from my house.

3) I built a simple monthly check off list for what I needed to do for her each month -- when her checking account statement shoul come and be balanced, when each bill should come and be paid, when to check to make sure her SS and annuity had arrived, etc.

Your situation is probably very different, but maybe some of that will be of help. Anyway, Good luck! Reversing the who is caretaker and who is cared for roles can stir up an awful lot of emotions between parents/children.

Not so different

Though all the lawyer-ly paperwork has been handled (the transfer of the financial POA will be done by my brother, who is currently POA but moving to Brazil), and she's got VERY simple finances, thankfully (one investment account, one checking account, one credit card). My bro's going to have the mailing address changed to me. I like your idea of the checklist -- I guess I'll build that as I start to see things happen. I'm not in her state -- that's the only thing that worries me a bit -- but I do have siblings in her town if I need something (none of whom wanted to deal with finances, but I don't mind doing mine, so I shouldn't mind doing hers). I'm a little worried about conflict, but we have similar ideas about money, so I think we'll be okay.

Thanks for the ideas.

managing someone else's finances

You are spoiled no more. I haven't done this yet, but I watched as my mom took care of her aunt (actually, my step-dads ex-wife's aunt -- oh the modern extended family) and it will be a lot of detail. A LOT of detail.

First, since you preface it with a 'hopefully just bill paying', you might want to start by having a very frank discussion with your mother about what is needed and expected so neither side has any surprises.

If there are other family members the need to be explicit about scope and role is even more important to prevent second guessing after the fact. One website on aging even recommends all the parties writing up a memorandum of understanding just to make sure that everybody knows who is doing what.

If you end up going the route of a financial power of attorney has some very good advice at their website.

Some other online tips for helping your parents take care of themselves are
US News Taking Care of your Parents: Protecting Their Finances

Business Week Getting your Parents Finances Under Control

and Retirement with a Purpose Handling your Parent's Finances

There are a lot of people in your same boat, so I bet theres tons of support sites out there. And for managing the paper trail, the Financial section up in the left hand corner here has a lot of templates to get you started documenting everything.

Good luck!

UK Stuff

If you were to be here in teh UK the situation would be different for what used to be called Power of Atterney, now called Public Guardianship. The details can be found at the Public Guardianship Office.

When my mother became unable to manage her own affairs we did not have this in place. However, it wasn't a problem because she thankfully she didn't suffer to much in her final illness so there wasn't any need for us to have sorted it out. We were lucky. But best to be prepared and get it arranged beforehand.


Wow - thanks for those links. They look perfect for me.

I really AM just doing the bill-pay. Her investments are handled by her broker (scary!), and she's in assisted living so one BIG bill for rent/food. Actually, the trickiest part will be the reconciling of the THREE health insurance plans. My brother has already set her up with a "tax guy."

I guess the thing I'm most scared of is that I've always STRIVED (striven?) to be organized, and spent a lot of time trying to become organized -- but my system now is essentially 'throw everything in a pile and then dig it out of that pile when you need it.'

Time to get serious, for her sake.


How I handle mom's finances....

You didn't mention if you were an only child or not. In my case, I am the youngest of three sons. Twenty years ago we build a small "mother-in-law" house for mom next to ours. As she aged she developed acute deminia -- and came to the place where she simply could not manage her money. Since I was next door.... For the last six years I have kept track of her accounts. As her funds have dwindled I have made certain to keep my brothers "in the loop" letting them know when such-and-such mutual fund was exhausted. I made certain they were part of the decision as to which mutual fund we were taking what monthly withdrawal.

Like another commented, I simplied mom's accounts -- one broker account, one bank account. I also had all bills transferred to my address (later we needed to move mom to first a retirement facility, and for the past two years a skilled nursing facility). I had mom sign a durable medical form. I too made a list of what needed to get paid monthly -- it is now down to only two bills (medical insurance and the SNF)so I no longer keep a list.

I put copies of all bills paid in a folder, and copies of all broker forms, bank statements, etc. When my brothers would come to visit I insisted they look through the folder and the check book. I emphasize the "insisted" part. I did not want any questions about how funds were being handled.

At first mom and I had great conflicts over her accounts -- her dementia was such that she became easily confused yet was absolutely convinced she was not confused. It was a very rough spot in our relationship. At first I was very concerned (upset if the truth were told) over it but received some very helpful counsel from a local agency called Passages (funded by a grant from Area Agency on Aging) on the course and evidences of dementia. As I lost my mother to dementia (she now doesn't know who I am) I was grateful for their advise.

The Passionate Pilgrim
-- Excellence through Simplicity



Sorry about your mom. My mom's still with us mentally enough to be a real PITA, sometimes -- but I'm glad she's still with us, nonetheless. I think (as mentioned) that the accounts are pretty simple, and I think my brother has already started a folder, and I don't think anyone worries about mishandling of funds (reviews will be hard with me out of town, but I will definitely send updates/summaries to everyone).

I also appreciate the information about the Area Agency on Aging -- I know there's one in mom's town -- I'll have to start looking into those resource where I live, as well.