Three ways to look out for your parents’ finances

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We’ve discussed tactics for talking to parents about their finances but we all know that it can be unwise to even approach this super-sensitive topic. There are ways, though, that adult children can watch out for parents while minding their own business. Here’s a review of some things to consider.

Ask yourself how savvy your parents are and what their values are
You can help your parents avoid problems by simply asking yourself how smart they are when it comes to personal finances. Some questions to consider:

  • Do they understand very basic financial concepts such as the inflation of credit card interest rates or the dangers of debt?
  • Will either of them be able to take over the other’s finances in the event that one of them passes away suddenly?
  • How often do they use a credit card and how many different credit cards do they have? Do they ever tell you anything about how much credit they carry at any time? Is there anything in what they say that raises any warnings?
  • How do they “treat” themselves? Do they splurge on things they can’t really afford?
  • How do they deal with unexpected expenses or crises? If you have ever witnessed your parents in a financial problem or crisis you have a window into their ability to deal with – or make – problems.
  • Are they ever showy with their money in a way that makes you or others uncomfortable?

Mom and dad are financially vulnerableHelp them find money they might not even want
Many of our parents grew up in an era when self-sufficiency wasn’t just a matter of pride but an absolute necessity. And many of them are capital-C Conservative and frown on people receiving “government handouts.” However, in the end, few people refuse free money. I’ve heard of numerous people come to accept that they’ve “earned” their monthly pension cheques after paying into the Canada Pension Plan all their lives.

Similarly, there are other government benefits that the elderly probably would learn to accept. However, the money needs to be available to them first. You can find out what additional benefits are available to your parents at CanadaBenefits.ca. For example, if they are on medication they may be entitled to tax breaks or benefits supplements but there are many other examples. For parents who are citizens of the US there is a similar website for them, Benefits Checkup.

In addition, there is a wealth of information provided by the Canadian government, if you have time to wade through it. The following lists some relevant sites and information:

Teach them to say “no” to strangers
As we all know, the elderly are often targeted by the variety of ruthless swindlers out there and this variety is increasing with the proliferation of technology. Since many of our parents are online, you need to advise them about the multitude of online scams. To fully deal with this properly, we’ll write a separate post on that subject alone, soon.

Suffice it to say, though, that you need to assure your parents that it is good advice to say “no” to strangers, whether they are on the phone, at the door, or on email.

Jim

Jim is Director of Web Strategy at Our Kids Media and has served in a variety of editorial capacities for comfortlife.ca since the website's launch in early 2008. He lives in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, with his wife and two children.

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