Managing money

While much of this information comes from a presentation by the Alzheimer’s Association, I believe it is applicable to just about everyone as we guard and protect our income and savings now and in the future.

Because life’s ending is a mystery, it is challenging to decide how much to spend now, how much to save, and how much to spend later. 

My dear friend, Iona, explained to me as she neared her 94th birthday, “I am not sure how long I will live and so it is difficult to know how much I can comfortably afford to spend while still having an eye on tomorrow.” What words of wisdom.

Financial planning is vital – and the earlier the better. People often ask me about retirement options – how to earn and save now to exit full-time work at an age where travel and exploration choices are viable. 

Having no mortgage on a home and no high payments for vehicles have been a standard response with the caveat that health insurance premiums can whack off a large chunk each month unless age permits the retiree to enjoy the benefits of Medicare. 

Sometimes, however, a couple becomes a caregiver and a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia or another debilitating illness. Then finances take a new turn, with the caregiver responsible for managing home and bills, medical visits and health care decisions, and the stress of finances. 

Again discussing these issues in advance means planning is already underway. Many caregivers are faced with mounting medical bills and difficult health care decisions. 

Young enough to still be employed, the caregiver must find someone to stay with a loved one during working hours. 

This frequently means dipping into savings or facing lost income with forced days off and /or early retirement as responsibilities increase.

A spouse or the caregiver may be making critical decisions, but this can become so overwhelming that children or siblings must be asked to assist – with time, money, advice, and/or support. 

Note the word “asked”. Many well-meaning family members offer to step in to help but instead of listening and hearing wants and needs, they feel obligate to order and blast opinions and recommendations without perceiving how this information is received. An example is cable television. 

This can become extremely expensive, especially if a family enjoys sports or movies that only come with a larger viewing package.

I know I have to watch our bill each month as our provider likes to add this and that to our service. One solution is cutting out cable altogether – at a tremendous savings. 

But if TV is a centerpiece of daily life and only blurry channels appear without a boost, this restriction can also add to isolation and loneliness. I don’t want televised programs to be the essence of life, but for some individuals it serves as the sole connection to the world. 

A recommendation: cut back programming but do not eliminate it. What do Uncle Cecil and Aunt Margaret love to watch? Keep it by redesigning their monthly bundle.

A fearsome abuse is reaped upon those who live alone. Tele-marketers and scammers prey on these people. They have a clever way of sensing of loneliness and use it to the max to grab money, credit card information, private account numbers and passwords, and worse. 

Although it was minimal, my mom began giving money to every request she received. Never large amounts, but $20 times 50 requests become $1,000 each month. Yes, it was her money to spend as she wished, but protecting her from constant demands became a necessity. By rank ordering all of the outgoing checks, she determined five to keep and 45 to set aside knowing that she could rejoin at will.

A caregiver reported a wonderful way to keep funds under control. She makes sure that her husband has $20 in his wallet, usually broken into smaller bills, and she has removed his credit card and ATM card. 

With cash on hand, he can purchase small items or go out to lunch and feel independent. 

When the $20 is depleted, another round of cash is loaded into his billfold. He has money – just not enough for a scammer to roll him.

Why in this wonderful world do some target innocent victims upon whom to stealthily steal while pretending to be a friend. This is simply something I cannot understand and is a reason why we all need to look out for one another.