Hi there. And welcome to this week’s episode of the Her Retirement Podcast. This week, I’m sharing five questions to ask your mother or grandmother. I found this content on the website wiser.org, which stands for women’s Institute for a secure retirement. Too often, older women live out their retirement years in pretty precarious financial straits. Some are trying to stretch modest incomes to meet increasing healthcare costs, housing, and even day-to-day expenses. And on average, women live longer than men, some have significantly lower retirement income, and some are really likely to outlive their savings.
Even with sound retirement plans, and financial plans, many older women sometimes struggle at some point with their savings accounts, going down, feeling stressed about watching those declining savings accounts, watching their health deteriorate, having mobility problems in other challenges, and whether your care recipient, your mother, your grandmother is approaching retirement, or is already retired. You can give her a very valuable gift. You can use these “conversation starters” I will share with you. These five questions or conversation starters to talk with her about her financial needs. Then take advantage of some of the suggestions, and together you may find solutions that will improve both of your lives.
The first question is, have you received sales calls or pressure for loans, home improvement services, or other purchases, or been asked for personal financial or insurance information or for money older Americans hold the largest percentage of this nation’s wealth. Making them prime targets for abuse by unethical financial professionals, scammers, caregivers, and even sometimes family members, many senior citizens fall prey to financial fraud and scams, depriving them of their hard-earned dollars. Particularly women who are more likely to live alone. In fact, 80% of women die. Single financial scams are a multi-billion-dollar industry.
I know my mother’s 87 and my mother-in-law’s 87, and they both have been targeted. Luckily, they are astute and educated by us, their children to be leery of those scams. Studies estimate the annual financial loss to be anywhere from 2.9 billion on the low end to 36.5 billion on the high end, and women are anywhere from twice to two-thirds as likely as men to be victimized. The scams are really numerous, from identity theft to bogus home improvement services, predatory loans, fishing, and stealing personal financial information from grandparents or sweetheart scams in foreclosure or debt relief services. Elder financial abuse can also happen when a person responsible for an elder’s financial matters misuses funds or neglect the duties that were assigned to them. It’s important to understand that financial abuse can happen to anyone. I mean anyone, and you can do your part to prevent it by educating yourself and the older people in your life and being aware.
Warning signs that an older person may have been a financial crime victim include large sums of money missing from bank accounts, unusual wire transfers, unpaid bills, the inability to buy essentials like food and medicine, missing property, or isolation from family and friends. And next, you should discuss and educate your family members, ask your care recipient to check with you and get a second opinion before making any large purchases or sending cash to anyone suggest that they let you place a no soliciting sign at their front door and leave a note by the phone, reminding them to say no to phone calls and numbers that they don’t recognize. Also, discuss these common fraud schemes and tips from the postal service on how to avoid being a target of fraud and how to report mail fraud. So, fraud and theft should be reported to the state attorney general. Visit the national association of attorney generals to find the office in your care recipient state. Be sure to inform the operator that you are reporting elder fraud, and it should be reported to the federal trade commission. Also, theft of property or cash should be reported to the local police department. The
The second question is, are you making ends meet and able to pay your bills on time? And are you worried about running out of savings as savings dwindle? Of course, you’re drawing down those retirement savings accounts in retirement. Financial and security can increase in many seniors, who struggle in silence, are too proud to say anything, or do not want to be a burden on others. I know because my mom, she always says that to me. I don’t want to be a burden. I don’t want to be a burden. Alternatively, your family members may have financial resources but struggle with managing their paperwork, paying their bills on time, and keeping track of everything. Understanding where that person’s money goes can make a big difference in their financial situation.
Sometimes a budget can help sitting down with them, helping them go through their bills and their paperwork, or perhaps removing that burden or that responsibility from them altogether. A critical step is to examine income. If your care recipient is spending down savings but is worried about running out of money, make sure that the savings withdrawals are paced appropriately. So as a general rule, a person at age 65 can withdraw three to 4% each year from their total savings, like a 401k and other accounts. And if accounts a counselor invests appropriately, the money, in theory, will last 20 to 30 years, depending upon the individual’s circumstances. And of course, a financial advisor should be able to step in and help and make sure that you and that person you’re caring for are on track and know what that withdrawal amount is okay, is your family member cash poor but house rich, another alternative, in this case, is a reverse mortgage or line of credit to access home equity.
And as I talked about in last week’s podcast, a reverse mortgage may be beneficial under the right circumstances, but they’re not the right choice for everyone – really important. You might want to go back and listen to last week’s podcast. If you want more information about a reverse mortgage, I had a fantastic conversation with a gentleman named Luke, and for some older women, buying an annuity can make sense in terms of income and retirement. There are many different types, but generally, an annuity is an insurance product that you purchase with a lump sum of money and, in return, receive a monthly income for life, much like getting a pension. So, I call it a personal pension plan. It’s a pretty complicated area. So again, really, really important to talk to a retirement advisor to get some advice on how annuities fit into the overall picture.
There are different products and price points, so choosing the right one should be done very carefully. And a woman is three times more likely to be widowed than a man and faces important legal and financial decisions, particularly at that very difficult time of loss. So, it’s really important. Should you be helping a mother or a grandmother deal with that situation to ensure that you are there to help guide them through that? Because the financial implications alone are, are pretty significant and can be overwhelming when you’re dealing with the death of your loved one.
Question number three, are you getting all the healthcare you need for those with multiple medical needs, making appointments, and managing their prescriptions and their private insurance can be really, really overwhelming aging-related memory loss can further complicate these issues. They could have skipped appointments, lacked preventative care, and been non-compliance with medication instructions.
All of these things can undermine their personal help, and seniors experiencing memory problems may need extra help with these appointments and medications. Things like copays, the cost of uncovered services, and the cost of transportation can sometimes keep seniors from getting the care they really need. Some programs like the state health insurance counseling program or ships offer no cost, unbiased health benefits, counseling education, and advocacy to help empower people, make informed benefit decisions, and help find a ship that serves your area. You could go to www dot ship, help.org. There may be options under the person’s Medicare programs, such as Medicare Advantage plans, part D prescription coverage, and private MEAP insurance or state Medicaid. These are our programs, all administered by Medicaid that cover Medicare premiums and copays for seniors with limited incomes, and a local ship counselor can outline options tailored to that person’s need.
And there are also local agencies on aging that can point to other types of assistance, including assisted living resources or other local programs that can help. And you can also use the federal elder care locator and enter your care recipient zip code at the top of the page to find your local area agency on aging and state and local aging and disability resources in the area. So really important to look for those resources.
Question number four to ask your mother or your grandmother: are you having trouble with mobility, driving balance, sight, or hearing? I know in the case of my mom, she’s still independent. She still has her car. She still drives. But most of the time, when I go with her somewhere, I drive. So, I really haven’t taken the time to drive with her. And that’s probably the next thing I need to do.
Although maybe I’ll ask one of my brothers to do it <laugh> no, I seriously, I think she’s driving fine still, but you know, it’s, as you get on in, in years, it is a little nerve-wracking to be the child of a parent who’s still driving around, and you’re hoping that they’re safe. So as people age difficulties, with these issues of mobility driving balance sight, or hearing, maybe keeping an older person from social and other daily activities and, and it can put them at risk of injury. Often seniors can become isolated and depressed if they’re physically unable to get out and see people they know during COVID. It had a tremendous impact on people like my mom, seniors who live alone, or even seniors living in facilities where they were on lockdown. You know this. This can all prevent them from participating in activities.
They enjoy, you know, being social is really important to longevity, and taking away that social aspect from a senior’s life can have detrimental effects. Injuries can lead to nursing home admissions, which is really scary, or other costly care expenses. Often a family caregiver will move back home, quit a job, or reduce their hours to take over care for a frail relative. This can have a major impact, not only on the caregiver’s finances and retirement savings, but potentially on the person receiving the care because they require more services and more medical intervention check for local services and support investigating services and sources made that can help get your loved one back on track, contact your area agency on aging and make an appointment to discuss local services like discounted transportation, senior centers, senior daycare, and social activities. You could also ask a doctor about possible medication or health conditions that could be contributing to problems and ask about things like walking aids, review the person’s home setup and identify hazards that might contribute to falling because mobility can become an issue.
Please note that Medicare does not cover things like eyeglasses or eye exams except in limited circumstances. So, it’s really important if your family member has limited resources and needs coverage, you can go to ARP. They have a guide to finding the best deal on these types of services, and the federal elder care locator can help you find services and point you to your local agency on aging.
Question number five, do you have adequate financial and tax advice? So, as I talk about each week, I believe that a financial advisor or, better yet, a retirement advisor can really, really help with critical decisions about one’s savings and investments and mapping out a sound plan for your retirement years. And for those of your mother and grandmother, before choosing an advisor, do your homework. The key to choosing someone is knowing what services they provide, what services you need, and the cost of those services.
You want to make sure that there is value in that relationship. You should know exactly what you’re getting, how much they cost, and how your planner will get paid. Ask tons of questions and again, do your homework. No investment is too complicated to be explained to you. So, make sure the person spends the time to answer your questions. You deserve clear answers. If this seems like a sound choice for you and your family member, ask for recommendations from people you trust. And obviously, I can connect with you as well. Okay? So, there you have it. Those are the five questions to ask your mother, your grandmother, and even yourself because, depending upon your age, you need to address these questions. Also, I do hope you found this week’s podcast helpful. So go ahead, ask those questions, get some answers, and take care of those moms. Take care of those grandmoms. They probably did a lot to sacrifice for you. Now it’s your turn to help them. Here’s to knowing more, having more, and getting her done.