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Published April 28, 2012, 11:30 PM

'Minding Our Elders' | Mom resists help handling finances

Dear Carol: My 82-year-old mother wants to go to her bank to renew a certificate of deposit. She seems competent, but my brother and I feel someone needs to go along with her.

By: Carol Bradley Bursack, INFORUM

Dear Carol: My 82-year-old mother wants to go to her bank to renew a certificate of deposit. She seems competent, but my brother and I feel someone needs to go along with her.

The bank has been pressuring her to buy an annuity, and we’re not sure this is wise. Since my brother’s name is on the checking account, he has offered to go along with Mom to do her banking, but she refuses. We respect her independence, but she has made several foolish financial choices in the past, and we’d like to protect her. Are our concerns normal? – Norma

Dear Norma: Yes, it’s normal to worry about your mother’s vulnerability in a situation like this.

It’s also normal for your mom to feel defensive.

She is likely feeling the losses that generally come with the aging process, so she’s hanging onto the control she still has. However, if your brother can approach her by gently emphasizing that they share an account, so he needs to be involved for their mutual benefit, she may see the wisdom of his accompanying her on this appointment. He should be careful not to imply she isn’t capable of renewing the CD on her own.

There are people in their 80s who are financially savvy and younger people who are not. However, unfair as it may seem, there is a stereotype that older people are more vulnerable, and some of them are. Sometimes a family member accompanying an elder on financial missions can keep things honest by their very presence, because it’s obvious that the elder isn’t alone in the world.

You mentioned that your mom has, in the past, made what you describe as foolish choices. It seems important that somehow your brother, or someone else who cares about her interests, accompany her to the bank. There are many sophisticated ways to take advantage of people of any age, but seniors are a prime target because many are so trusting of “authority.”

If your mother won’t allow your brother to help handle her finances, then maybe he can find her a fee-only financial adviser who is not attached to the bank. This person can help determine whether this annuity is a good move.

You can tell your mom it’s like getting this second opinion from a doctor. This planner may also be able to give your mother advice about appointing a Power Of Attorney, which she really should do.

Good luck. She sounds like a determined and spunky elder, which can be good. But she does need to understand that she could be sold a financial product that benefits the bank more than it benefits her. Having qualified backup for important financial decisions is generally a good idea.

Carol Bradley Bursack is the author of a support book on caregiving and runs a website supporting caregivers at www.mindingourelders.com.

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