When Caroline began helping her mother with bill-paying, she was quickly overwhelmed. “I couldn’t believe the mess. Mom had four bank accounts and several credit cards,” she said. “There was no system to her bill paying.”
In her late 80’s and suffering from macular degeneration, Caroline’s mother randomly paid bills from the first checkbook she found. She didn’t know where her income was deposited. To simplify, Caroline helped her mother consolidate her accounts.
If you find yourself helping a senior in a similar situation, before closing any account, ask whether an account has a specific purpose for its owner. Keep the accounts she needs, and help her eliminate the rest.
Most seniors need only one checking account and perhaps one savings account. Multiple accounts can lead to confusion, and, if the balances are not monitored, costly bank fees. Before closing any account, review the bank statement for any direct deposits (such as social security and pensions) and automatic bill payments (such as medical insurance and utilities). You will want to move these to the remaining account.
When money deposited at one bank totals more than $250,000, your senior may want to use more than one bank. FDIC insurance covers $250,000 in combined deposits in an individual’s name. Review the coverage with the senior’s bank, and, if not all of his money is insured, move a portion to another bank. Another factor to consider: does the senior need such a large sum of cash in low- interest bearing accounts? The answer to this depends on the individual’s situation and preferences.
Sometimes additional bank accounts are necessary. If your senior has income from a rental property, for example, all rent should be deposited into a bank account separate from her personal account. Bills for the property are paid from the rental property account. This includes “draws,” money the property owner takes for personal use. Tenants’ security deposits would be held in yet another account designated specifically and only for that purpose.
Credit Cards are easy to accumulate over the years. When a senior doesn’t use the cards, however, he doesn’t receive monthly statements and the accounts can be easily forgotten. Most seniors need only one credit card, if any at all. To find out what cards are open in the senior’s name, have the senior request a free credit report from each of the three main credit reporting agencies. The form to request the reports is available at annualcreditreport.com
Together with your senior, call each credit card company and close the account. Many people worry closing a credit card account will negatively impact their credit score. This does lower a score for a few months. Most seniors, however, don’t need credit and having fewer open credit cards is a greater priority than maintaining a high credit score. The more credit card accounts a senior has open, the more vulnerable he is to ID theft, especially if the accounts are not monitored.
When Caroline and her mother received her mother’s credit report, they discovered five open credit card accounts. They decided to close all but one. They also consolidated bank accounts to one checking account. Her mother’s savings are with her investment advisor who can transfer funds into the checking account as needed. These moves significantly simplified her mother’s financial life, reducing the amount of time and paperwork for Caroline and decreasing the mess and stress for both women.
This blog is published to provide you with general information only, and is not intended to provide specific or comprehensive advice. Money Care, LLC encourages individuals to seek advice from competent professionals when appropriate. The names of the individuals in this article have been changed to protect their privacy.