If you want to age in place, your home will likely need modifications to allow you to remain there as long as possible. However, successfully aging in place requires more than just a first-floor bathroom and bedroom, wide doors, entrance ramps and other accessibility features.
It also requires support. In addition to having someone who can help with personal care, household chores and errands, you need support with managing finances, according to the University of Michigan National Poll on Health Aging. That’s right—financial care is an essential part of aging in place.
To remain in your home and live independently, you need a system and safeguards to ensure that bills are paid on time, that accounts are properly managed and protected, and that you aren’t exploited by scammers or even those close to you. Here’s how to incorporate financial care into your aging-in-place plan.
[ See: Tech Solutions for Independent Senior Living ]
Why you need financial care to age in place
All adults experience a decline in their ability to manage their finances and make financial decisions as part of the aging process, according to the National Endowment for Financial Education. This decline can be even more pronounced among those with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias.
As a result, tracking spending, paying bills and staying on top of multiple accounts can become more challenging. Small money mistakes can happen more frequently and, if they go undetected, can lead to big financial problems that can jeopardize your ability to remain in your home.
The bigger threat, though, is your increased risk of financial exploitation. As you age, the ability to recognize risky situations and avoid them declines. That leaves older adults, especially those who live alone, more vulnerable to scams, fraud and theft. Losing your money to a con artist could leave you without the financial resources you need to age in place. It also could prompt family members to find a more secure environment for you.
[ Read: How Your Risk of Financial Exploitation Increases With Age ]
How to get support with managing your finances
Managing your finances as you age in place will require a combination of smart systems you can put in place to streamline money matters and a strong support system from trusted family members, friends or financial professionals.
Put your finances on autopilot
Ensure that bills are paid on time and eliminate the need to make trips to the post office by setting up automatic bill payments. Sign up for direct deposit for all your sources of income to avoid delays in getting funds into your bank account.
Use an account, credit and identity monitoring service
Keeping tabs on your financial accounts is important to catch money mistakes and signs of fraud. The Carefull service makes this easy by monitoring bank, credit card and investment accounts 24/7 and alerting you to common money mistakes such as duplicate payments and insufficient funds, as well as unusual transactions and signs of fraud. Carefull also provides credit and identity monitoring and up to $1 million in identity theft insurance coverage.
Talk about your finances with trusted family members
Sharing information about your financial situation sooner rather than later can help you and your family members be prepared if they have to help you stay on top of money matters as you age. Discuss what your sources of income are, whether you have savings, and what financial obligations and liabilities you have. The more details you’re willing to provide, the better prepared your loved ones will be.
Get a second set of eyes on your finances
Pinpoint family members or friends you trust who can act as a second set of eyes on your finances. Consider giving them view-only access to your accounts—which you can do with the Carefull service by adding trusted contacts—so they can spot changes in your financial situation if you start having trouble staying on top of your finances as you age.
Name trusted contacts on your accounts
Brokerage firms are required to ask customers for a trusted contact—someone they can contact if they are concerned about activity in a customer’s account and can’t reach the customer. Some financial institutions and financial advisors also ask for trusted contacts. Make sure you provide a trusted contact whenever the option is available because it can help your financial institutions protect you from financial exploitation.
Name financial and medical powers of attorney
Meet with an attorney to draft a financial power of attorney document to name someone you trust to make financial decisions for you if you can’t. Also, name a health care power of attorney to make medical decisions for you if you can’t. Do this while you’re healthy and mentally competent so you can decide who will be in charge of your finances and medical care if something happens to you. If you wait and start to experience cognitive decline, you might be talked into giving this power to someone you wouldn’t normally trust.
Consider a living trust
You can go a step further to ensure your assets are managed in a way you want if you become incapacitated by setting up a living trust. Work with an estate-planning attorney to discuss how you can transfer your assets to a trust and name a trustee to manage your finances for you if an injury, illness or dementia leaves you unable to make financial decisions on your own.
Carefully vet household help
Unfortunately, there are caregivers who take advantage of the people who hire them. So it’s important to thoroughly vet anyone you hire to work in your home. Use a licensed and insured home care agency or ask friends and family for recommendations then get references, do extensive interviews and ask local law enforcement how to do background checks for caregiving candidates.
Secure financial documents
Make sure that any financial and estate planning documents aren’t easily accessible—especially if you have household help—because information in those documents could be used to steal your identity. You can store digital copies of the documents in a digital vault such as the one offered by the Carefull service and store originals in a safe deposit box or in a safe in your home.
Get professional help with your finances
If you can’t stay on top of your finances on your own and don’t have family who can help, you can hire a daily money manager. Daily money managers can handle bill paying, negotiating with creditors, assisting with insurance claims and other financial tasks. You can find one near you through the American Association of Daily Money Managers.
[ Read: How to Protect Your Finances as You Age ]