What It’s Really Like to Be a Financial Caregiver

Thirteen people who have managed daily money matters and provided care for loved ones share their experiences.

An estimated 45 million Americans are unpaid caregivers for adult family members or friends. They help with a variety of tasks, ranging from providing transportation and preparing meals to helping loved ones bathe and dress. A majority also handle a task that might not typically be associated with caregiving—managing finances.

In fact, a growing number of caregivers have taken on the role of financial caregiver over the past five years, according to AARP’s Caregiving in the U.S. 2020 study. You might be one yourself and not even realize it. If you help a loved one pay bills, monitor accounts, track spending, negotiate with lenders, file claims with insurers or make financial decisions, you are a financial caregiver.

And if you’re like many of the financial caregivers surveyed by AARP, you know how time-consuming it can be to manage a loved one’s finances. You know how stressful it can be. You also know how alone you can feel in your struggles as a financial caregiver.

Carefull—a new company building services for financial caregivers—wants you to know that you’re not alone. We interviewed people across the U.S. who have experienced the challenges of being a caregiver firsthand.

Help for financial caregivers

Some have met with resistance from loved ones who didn’t want to hand over control of their finances. Some have had to protect loved ones from fraud. Some have faced legal challenges to managing their loved one’s finances. Most have seen their own finances take a hit as a result of caregiving. Yet, all of the caregivers who shared their stories with us said they were grateful that they were able to help their loved ones.

Perhaps Susanne White, who cared for her parents and another family member, said it best: “Caregiving is the most intense thing you’ll ever do in your life, and it’s the best thing you’ll ever do in your life.” She and the other caregivers Carefull interviewed faced numerous challenges. However, they didn’t let those challenges deter them from providing the care that their loved ones needed.

Many of the caregivers whom Carefull interviewed revealed that they often didn’t know where to turn for support. The AARP study also found that caregivers took on their role without adequate services and supports in place. Although experts suggest technology could help support caregivers, AARP found that only about half of the caregivers they surveyed reported using software or technological tools to help them. An even smaller percentage—just 35%—said they were using technology to track their loved ones’ finances.

About Carefull

The Carefull team recognized that financial caregivers needed an easier way to manage their loved ones’ finances than logging onto multiple accounts, sorting through piles of bills and balancing checkbooks. That’s why we created an app to support caregivers.

The Carefull app allows you to see all of your loved ones’ accounts that you link to the app in one place. It will monitor those accounts for possible late payments, changes in spending and unusual transactions. You’ll get alerts so you can catch small issues before they become big problems.

The app also allows you to create a circle of family members or others who help with your loved ones’ care so you can coordinate and communicate easier about money matters. For example, you could message your parents to let them know that they’re late paying a bill, or you keep your sister updated on the expenses you paid for your parents if you’re splitting the bills.

Most importantly, the Carefull app uses bank-level security to keep data safe. It doesn’t see or store account credentials such as usernames and passwords, so privacy is protected. Plus, Carefull won’t sell its users’ data. Your loved ones’ financial information is safe with us.

The challenges—and rewards—of financial caregiving

Being a caregiver for a loved one often means helping make decisions about money, covering expenses out of pocket, giving up vacation time, fighting fraud, navigating the legal system and working through challenging family dynamics. But caregiving is also one of the most selfless, rewarding things you can do for someone you love. It's our hope that these stories help you reflect on your own experiences and learn that you're not alone.

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