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Client Study:  “Anne”

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Age:  94 years old

Support:  Widow, no children or local family.  No POA

Health Status:  Legally blind, significant hearing loss & two other chronic conditions requiring pain management and a walker.  Aging in place & homebound.

Financial Resources:  SS & Teacher’s Pension

May 2018, Anne requested assistance from a home health agency after her most recent hospital discharge.  Part of her service request was tax preparation assistance as her taxes had not been filed and her previous CPA was no longer in business.  The home health agency referred her to Senior Checks & Balances (SCB) for guidance.

After an introductory phone call with a Senior Checks & Balances advisor and the initial in-home assessment, a work plan and calendar were laid out that Anne was comfortable moving forward with.

  •      Two sessions per week @ two hours each for two weeks
  •      Daily activity logs for Anne to review
  •      Filing system to organize documentation based on the following headers:

o   Tax documents

o   Income documentation (including SS)

o   Healthcare spending/expenses

o   Gifting/Charitable receipts

o   Real estate/tax info

o   Banking Info

Over the course of the sessions, Anne & her SCB advisor were able to capture & organize her 2017 tax documents, relevant receipts and other documentation.  For those items that were not available or misplaced, SCB worked as Anne’s agent to obtain copies in a timely manner. Once the tax package was complete, SCB introduced Anne to a trusted CPA that worked on her behalf directly with the IRS to have penalties abated based on medical exemption and file her return.

While there are no concrete numbers on how often taxes are not filed due to illness or lack of support, the greater concern is that there are no current safety nets in the system to insure all filings and enrollments for seniors are done in a timely manner.  More often than not, failure to file is not caught until the individual has past away or finances have reached a critical failure. At this juncture, the individual’s estate will be further compromised through audit and probate.

 

In 2019, the IRS will be introducing the 1040SR which is available to any taxpayer 65 or older without significant income restrictions.  Similar to the 1040EZ, this new filing tool was developed for those, like Anne, with relatively simple or uncomplicated finances – but therein lies the issue.  Senior finances are complicated. First, it does not further insure that a chronically ill senior with diminished competency will file. Also, tax code and deductions around senior living and healthcare are extremely complicated and require professional assistance to insure all deductions are captured appropriately.  Only the standard deductions can be taken when using the 1040SR.

 

Despite popular beliefs, dementia is not always at play.  As we age, our ability to perform or recall the steps to tasks that were once routine diminish with or without any cognitive decline.  Having the conversation early and often is the key to staving off financial errors or incidents. In the case where family is available to step in once their loved one is not longer capable of managing their day to day, the focus remains on the physical health of the individual while the financial health of their estate remains a secondary concern.  Installing safeguards and systems well before there is a critical life event – health or financial.

 

While Anne’s case is unfortunate, as she has no local family nor a designated POA, anyone can easily fall into the same situation even with an extensive support structure around them.  Any individual managing declining health that inherently creates greater financial oversight is best served by engaging a professional to oversee the “workflow” of daily finance, healthcare spending and financial management.  A Certified Senior Advisor can establish baseline efficiencies and protections for not only day to day finances but of the overall estate as well when engaged early on.  Further a CSA, serves as a valuable member of the individual’s “support structure” for continued autonomy as well as neutral point of contact for all family members.  

 

Financial Caregiving

When it comes to engaging assistance as we age, the focus weighs heavily on the physical end of the spectrum.  Creating safe environments that allow us to age in place while managing new and changing states of health seems to dominate the conversation.  Home health aides, caregivers and companions offer a host of solutions and assistance that create a seamless transition into our senior years.

Yet, very rarely is any emphasis placed on the finance of the household during this period of transition.  Many believe that if they have engaged a wealth manager or financial planner to oversee savings, IRAs or investments that all is secure and sound.   Overlooking the day to day finances of health and home can create even greater implications on the individual as they age.

There are five areas where we seek professional guidance to protect our lifestyle and future –

  1.  Investment/Savings – CPAs, CFPs, Wealth Managers, etc..
  2. Healthcare – From doctors to in home assistance
  3. Insurance – Agents supplying policies covering health, property and life.
  4. Estate – Lawyers and professionals creating the “firewalls” for the protection of your holdings and interests.
  5. Home & Lifestyle – Who is protecting and advising on household budgets, household spending, tax documentation preparation, Medicare enrollments and the litany of other details that clog our inboxes and mail slots?  Who is insuring that the other four stakeholders, listed above, are working in concert?

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The stakes of household and healthcare finance are higher as we age.  Keeping accounts current, meeting bill deadlines, assessing the validity of charges, navigating online billings, recurring charges – all can create significant damage to our lifestyle if not managed correctly.  Additionally,  there is the necessary understanding and expertise of the health insurance landscape that can have detrimental effects, financially & physically, if not management appropriately.

The same way we engage home health aides to insure physical safety at home, the need for Daily Money Management and Certified Senior Advisors to protect our cash flow and access to healthcare is vital. 

  • Setting up a sound budget that anticipates expenditures and can clearly track changes as they occur.
  • A living record of healthcare spending that follows the life of each claim and captures out of pocket spending.
  • Clear communication with all other “custodians” (doctors, CFPs, CPAs, lawyers….) so enrollments, taxes and distributions are completed with the least amount of stress and uncertainty.

Engaging a professional to assist with the business of household and healthcare insures peace of mind that daily cashflow and access to care are secure and protected.

Contact us today to discuss how we may assist you and your loved ones.

What We Leave Behind

I’m feeling a little bit shell shocked so forgive the frank post.

Senior Checks and Balances means a lot of different things to many different people.  Relief for an overwhelming situation, assistance in maintaining independence, financial security or simply freedom to enjoy retirement.  Working with one particular client has been especially rewarding – a 50 year old woman whose chronic illnesses had overcome her ability to manage household, three dependent children, a husband who works away during the week and an invalid mother.   We’d been working on Medicare/Medicaid re-enrollments, bill consolidation and building a working household budget.

This morning her husband called.  She past away suddenly a two days ago.

All I can do now, is give her husband and children the relief of managing all that is outstanding.   Their grief shouldn’t be compounded by the stress of the mounds of mail and paperwork on the dining room table.  I’ll spend a couple of days each week for the next month shepherding their accounts through adjudication and getting them onto solid ground.

She left behind no will, no power of attorney (healthcare or durable), no instructions, no living will….. no estate plan of any kind.  Now, I can launch into all of the terrible scenarios that can result from not having any of these simple documents – like debates over life sustaining measures or ending up in probate court.  They are all terrible and lead to stress and heart ache for your loved ones amidst their grief.

Instead, I implore you to take a couple of hours and get your house in order.  A couple of hours.

  1. Employ an estate planner (I know some outstanding and upstanding professionals!) or just log on to legalzoom – just get the proverbial pen to paper.  Costs are lower than you think and can save you from losing upwards of 70% of your estate to legal fees and estate taxes.  Yes, 70%!  Also, the average length of time an estate will stay in probate is anywhere from 6 months to 2 years.
  2. We live in a digital age that is full of paperless statements and usernames/passwords.  Utilize a username/password tool such as LastPass or Keeper.  These tools allow for a designated person to have access after an emergency or unexpected death.  They will also assist with a digital will.
  3.  The day to day stuff.  The comcast bill, the landscaper……..  every vendor you pay on a regular basis needs to be notated.  Googledocs or OneDrive is your simplest way to give life to your household budget.
  4. The three wise (wo)men – your insurance agent (health &/or life), your lawyer and your accountant/CFA.  If you employ any of these professionals, your estate will work in conjunction with them in an event of a crisis or passing.  Have their info in the hands of your loved ones all the time.

Share the whereabouts or existence with this information with your whomever you decide is your “person”.  No personal or account information needs to be shared – just who to contact and how to proceed.  Laugh if you like, but every year I get an email from my mother entitled “Dead” – it contains an update on who to call, where a specific item may be or directive for her final wishes.  Morbid or not, it gives her a greater sense of security if anything should happen and I know that I will be able to follow all of her final wishes to a T – financial and personal.

Contact me to discuss any question or detail.

 

 

The Snowball Effect – Finances & Aging

Yesterday afternoon, we received a call from a lovely woman asking for assistance with “her hallway of paper”.  An introductory visit was set for the very next day.

Not long after walking into her home, it was clear what the priority was for “Anne”.  TAXES.  Two days post tax deadline, a week post hospital discharge and a year since her tax preparer retired.   “Anne” was at a loss for how to get started.  Tax documentation, statements, receipts and handwritten notes for the past year in separate stacks lined her hallway floor.  There sat a woman, a PhD not to mention, who was struggling with mobility & recuperation which was clearly being exacerbated by the stress of taxes and money.  “Anne” was clearly one smart cookie that was trying to cope in a debilitating situation that had reached beyond a critical point.

In any search on “finances and aging”, there are volumes of information in terms of elder abuse/fraud or warnings/indicators of significant impairment or disease.  Yet, there is limited to no information on the individual’s ability to shoulder the general finances of household, Medicare and taxes over time that did not include the impact of the aforementioned factors.   Alarmingly, any type of economic behavioral data amongst older adults is poorly understood.  What is well established is that as we age, our cognitive ability to manage regular tasks, such as IRA distributions, tax preparation and account reconciliation diminish.

In “Anne’s” case, as with so many others, this is an uncomfortable topic that is easier put to the side.  Moreover, focus of physical health, not financial, is the primary litmus for assessing a loved one status – “Mom feels great so all is well!”  In any case, regular check ins on the comings and goings of budget, insurance and investments are paramount.

Once an individual begins to skip a payment, not file a receipt or overlook an account notification The Snowball Effect begins.   One utility doesn’t get paid, an insurance claim isn’t filed correctly, a mortgage/HOA/housing payment is missed….. tax day comes and goes.  Now, the health of their financial affairs are critical and will also have an adverse affect on their emotional, physical and psychological health.

Having the “bills & finance” conversation regularly with loved ones will surely create an air of openness and honesty.  Additionally, the use of outside help, such as a Daily Money Manager, Certified Financial Planner or Financial Concierge, can enable an individual to maintain control and dignity of “owning” their finances with the added assurance of professional review.

 

Senior Checks & Balances specializes in consultative financial assistance with the highest level of security and privacy.  

 

The Work of Retirement

Female Neighbor Helping Senior Woman To Complete Form

For many, the days of retirement represent freedom from “work” – meaning, the mundane responsibilities that don’t necessarily bring happiness & joy.  The moving parts of household management, personal finances and healthcare actually multiply as we all age.  Taking up more of our time and representing large stress triggers.  Counterproductive to a relaxing retirement.

  • Managing housekeepers, landscapers & paying utilities
  • Healthcare claims & Medicare enrollments
  • Organizing and evaluating mail/emails, statement, marketing and invoices

These are just a few elements that we all must manage during our senior years.

For example, December is a very busy month for Seniors and it’s not because of a busy holiday party schedule!  Medicare re-enrollments and end of year IRA distributions must be attended to or else.  Lay these stressful and critical activities on top of the rest of the business of managing home/lifestyle can leave anyone stressed and exhausted!  Enter Senior Checks & Balances – we are here to be your extra set of eyes or even manage it all for you.  It’s your retirement.

Senior Checks & Balances carries the chore of bills, insurance and household management so your days can be defined by the retirement you’ve earned.  With a customized plan that is directed by you, Senior Checks & Balances keeps your home and finances running like a well oiled machine.  The most important element – this is all accomplished without the transfer of any personal or account information.  To boot, Senior Checks & Balances is not nameless & faceless – we rely on regular face to face meetings with you to insure the business of your home & retirement is being managed to the greatest efficiency and transparency.

Your Home Is Your Business

The family home is something to be cherished.  Filled with memories, tradition and comfort, the home is a source of pride and identity for many in the senior community.

dreamstime_xxl_103701289As the technology and services of utilities & home maintenance evolve, the overall needs for those aging in place change over time as well.  Today, there are a host of in-home caregiving options within the healthcare spectrum.  Yet, the business of running and caring for your home & maintaining lifestyle as you or your loved ones age in place are few and far between.  Consider us your home & lifestyle caregivers.

There are so many moving parts to the every day management of household – groceries, cleaning, landscaping, utilities, auto care/transportation and on and on.  Are there other areas that are awaiting organization?  Does the management of health and insurance take up too much of your time?

Senior Checks & Balances prides itself on custom project plans for each of our clients.  Providing the security that insures your monthly budget is being met, initiating a “slim down” of household contents, managing the safe/secure disposal of documents, changes to accounts and healthcare information – we care for your home and lifestyle.

Senior Checks & Balances serves the Chicagoland area on a one-on-one basis in the privacy & security of your home and DOES NOT require the transfer of any personal information.  Complete security.  Call or email us today for a personal assessment.

jill@seniorchecksandbalances.com

773-457-1952

Too much information

For many in the senior community, there is palpable fear that something will fall through the cracks resulting in financial penalties or the compromise of personal information.  Given the volume communications that the average person receives on a daily basis, anyone can become daunted by it all.  Sifting through account statements, monthly bills and marketing/solicitations takes a keen eye.  Now, remember that these communications are coming at us via snail mail, email and sometimes, on the phone.

Just this week, I had a regular visit with a client who was very concerned over a phone call she’d received to schedule an installation.  She had okay’d the date they offered over the phone but hung up a little bewildered.  Trying to put two and two together, she remembered a piece of mail that came from the village informing her that her water meter was to be replaced.  That must have been it.

I asked to see the both the notice for the water meter and then her phone to see the number that had called her.  A big red flag immediately went up and I made two phone calls.  A local carpet company had my client’s phone number in error and was calling to schedule a carpet installation.   This was not associated with the upcoming water meter installation.

Having an extra set of eyes to review the care and management of your home as you “age in place” creates security your loved one deserves at this juncture of their lives.  With monthly meetings to review mail, status of utilities/bills and plan for what lies ahead, the tornado of paper, mail and solicitations is far less daunting.

Senior Checks & Balances serves the senior community in the Greater Chicagoland area.  Contact us today to discuss how we can be of service to you and your loved ones.