Seniors Should Have Open Books
Discussing money is taboo in our culture. We generally don’t share how much we make and spend, or how much we have in the bank with our children, our siblings, or even our closest friends. While privacy is important, there comes a time when it is better to share.
By the time you enter your senior years, you should have appointed a legal agent (power of attorney or trustee). Many seniors I have met took care of that years ago. When I ask if they have discussed their finances with their legal agent, they often say no. Why? “It isn’t time yet,” they reply. I am left wondering, what are they waiting for?
Transparency Does Not Mean Giving Up Control
In my experience, seniors are usually waiting to hand over control of their finances until the very last moment. But the very last moment is far too late to effect a good “hand off.” Long before your agent takes full control, you should open your books to them. Teach them how you manage your money and how you would like it handled in the future. If you wait until you can’t handle things anymore, it may be too late. You aren’t doing your agent any favors by making them figure things out on their own. Most adult children I have met wish their parents had given them more information and more guidance, sooner.
Check Your Assumptions
Transparency in finances allows your agent to help you consider how long your money will last and provides a healthy check on your assumptions. In my years of working with seniors and their families, I have met some seniors who had very small nest eggs but thought they were millionaires and would never run out of money, and seniors who had very large nest eggs but were worried unnecessarily about spending. Your adult children, your financial advisor and your accountant can bring a fresh perspective to your financial outlook. In this way, transparency in finances can lead to better planning and decision making.
Open Books = Safety
In this age of rampant financial exploitation of seniors, it may seem odd to be counseling seniors to open their books to others, but when you share information with a trustworthy person who is paying close attention to your finances, you are less likely to lose money to scams and other forms of exploitation. You have someone with whom you can share your concerns and who will support you in your financial management. Now that is a huge relief.