Daily money management services keep seniors independent
Daily money managers are part of an emerging profession, says Mindy Luebke, the Chicago president of the American Association of Daily Money Managers. Money managers are not exclusively for seniors. Wealthy individuals have used them for generations. But over the past 10 years some have tailored their services to helping seniors at home with money management and the associated paperwork and mail.
"This service is very much in demand, as the younger generation does not always live in the same area as their parents," says Amie Hyman, owner of Heartfelt Solutions for Seniors, Inc., in Willow Springs. Hyman is a licensed social worker who began doing money management professionally five years ago. She realized the need after moving her mother to Illinois from California. " She needed everything done for her," Hyman says. "I spent hours and hours."
Like Hyman's mother, many older people just can't do this anymore, she says. "It becomes overwhelming when the junk mail, doctor bills, and Medicare statements start to pile up. They can forget to pay a bill, or they are late and incur fees," Hyman says. "Once I have the proper permissions, I can set up automatic withdrawals and monitor the transactions, write checks, manage the bank deposits, transfer funds from one account to another, negotiate on their behalf with creditors, and deal with their medical insurance company."
"Some people simply do not know where their money is going anymore," Hyman adds. "A DMM can prepare a budget with them." This allows the senior to maintain control, with help.
Unfortunately, fraud and scams are a big problem with the elderly and their money. Having a professional looking over the senior's shoulder (and into their checkbook) can prevent catastrophic loss.
"I once had a client who was an inch away from sending her checking account number to a foreign entity," Hyman says. "I can also spot red flags, such as numerous ATM withdrawals when the person is homebound. A caregiver or a family member is often the abuser," she adds.
Like any service, costs vary. Hyman's fees range from $35-$100 an hour, depending on what type of work she is doing. (She also does medical advocacy, where she attends doctor appointments and emergency room visits with the senior.)
For those who don't yet need at-home scrutiny of their mail, but would still like the convenience of having their bills paid automatically, a company like The Fiscal Concierge might be a good fit. It is a national company based in Manitowoc, Wis., which caters to active adults.
Like Hyman, company CEO Jim Nickels started The Fiscal Concierge four years ago after helping his wife manage her mother's daily affairs for years. "We were the typical sandwich generation, with kids in college," he says. "We read an article in The Wall Street Journal about people who do this for celebrities. That is how we got the idea."
Clients have their bills sent to the company, which pays them out of the client's checking account. "If there are insufficient funds in the account, we notify the client beforehand. Also, if a bill goes up a certain percentage over a three-month average, our software catches it. We can even help small businesspeople work with us, so the landscaping company or the trash collector can get paid by us," Nickels says.
The Fiscal Concierge charges a flat fee of $59.95 per month, which is less than what most banks will charge, Nickels adds.
Included in the fee is a membership with Lifelock, which provides a $1 million liability policy if a client's identity is stolen. "Having a bill-paying service limits the senior's risk of identity theft," Nickels says.
A bill paying service is perfect for snowbirds. "Our typical client is someone in their 70s or 80s, retired, and probably has a second home in Florida," Nickels says. "They have worked very hard and built up a nice nest egg. This is one way of eliminating some of their concerns. It also dramatically improves their credit rating. The last thing you want to do is create a problem for your parents by paying a bill late."
How to find a daily money manager or bill paying service: Go to www.aadmm.com and click on the DMMs & You tab. Type in your ZIP code and view a list of people in your area. Or call 877-326-5991.