By Jim Miller, columnist
Dear Savvy Senior,
Can you recommend any services that can help my elderly mother with her financial chores? My dad always used to handle the bill paying and paperwork, but he passed away last year, and mom struggles to keep on top of things. And I don’t live close enough to help her on a regular basis.
It sounds like your mom could use a good daily money manager (or DMM). These are financial savvy professionals that can help older adults who have difficulty managing their own day to day personal financial affairs.
The types of services they provide typically include paying bills, maintaining financial records, balancing checkbooks and negotiating with creditors. DMMs can also prepare checks for clients to sign, help older people organize bank and financial records, prepare and deliver bank deposits, gather and organize documents for tax returns, help decipher medical bills, and review bank statements in order to detect potential financial abuse or fraud.
Depending on where your mom lives, DMM services may be available through private non-profit elder assistance organizations or government agencies. These agencies often use volunteers to provide basic DMM tasks, such as bill paying at no cost. To find out if this is available in your mom’s area contact her Area Aging Agency. Visit ElderCare.acl.gov or call 800-677-1116 for contact information.
In addition to the non-profit DMMs, an increasing number of individuals and private for-profit companies have started offering DMM services for a fee. Cost for these services varies by region but it often ranges between $25 and $100 per hour. Most clients need approximately four hours of services per month, but this too varies according to the complexity of the person’s financial situation.
The best place to look for a professional DMM in your mom’s area is through the American Association of Daily Money Managers (AADMM.com), which offers an online directory that lets you search by ZIP code. All the pros listed there have signed the group’s code of ethics. Some have passed a certification exam to earn the designation of Certified Daily Money Manager.
Before hiring a daily money manager, however, get references from two or more of their clients and check them. Also, find out what they charge and what type of insurance coverage they have. Keep in mind that neither federal nor state governments regulate the DMM industry, so there is little oversight of these services. So before turning over your mom’s bills, make certain it’s someone you can trust.
One other highly rated bill-paying service you should know about that’s specifically designed for older adults and caregivers is SilverBills (SilverBills.com). Available nationwide, this is a secure concierge bill management service that will manage your mom’s bills and pay them on her behalf, on-time and correctly, for a flat fee of $50 per month.
If you opt for this service, your mom will be paired with an account manager who will communicate and work with her over the phone, or through email, text or mail (her preference) – no computer is required. SilverBills also reviews all bills for errors and fraud and provides monthly statements showing the date, amount and manner of each payment.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.