If your mom is making occasional errors when balancing her checkbook, that’s probably a typical age-related memory change. But if you start to notice that she’s losing track of the amounts she’s spending and not paying bills on time, it’s time to consider how to help her manage her finances and how you might be able to assist remotely. Online bill payment is an easy place to start.
Although you might be tempted to simply handle everything, it’s important to keep your parent involved for as long as possible. Shared decision-making is a critical component of any caregiving relationship. Talk to your parent, and get informed about all of her finances, including all the accounts and where the records and documents are kept, without making her feel like you are completely taking over her financial situation.
An important part of this conversation might be speaking to an attorney or accountant about securing a power of attorney or becoming a co-signer on your parent’s accounts, which will allow you to have electronic access to their bank accounts, among other powers.
Set Up Automatic Online Bill Payments
The best way to avoid late fees and interest charges is to set up automatic payments. Not only will automatic monthly payments for recurring charges such as a mortgage or car payment save your parent time and money compared to writing out checks and sending them through the mail, but once you set the schedule, you can be sure the bills will be paid.
Although there are third-party bill paying services, as well as companies that specialize in paying bills for seniors, you can easily set up payments with your parent’s bank for free. Once their online bill payment system is set up, you can set email alerts to remind your parent when their payments will be sent or to confirm they have been made.
If you want to limit potential trouble, cut off paper bills and go paperless. Identity thieves have been known to go through mailboxes looking for documents with bank account numbers. In fact, approximately 85 percent of identity theft cases start with stolen paper statements, bills or checks. Online statements not only reduce clutter but also convenient and secure.
More than half of all bills are now paid online, according to a report from electronic payments firm ACI Worldwide and research firm Aite Group. If you want to help an elderly parent pay bills, online bill payment systems offer a convenient way to pay bills without paper checks, envelopes or postage stamps and will help you handle your parent’s finances remotely.