Q: I am concerned about whether my parents are handling their finances properly and whether/when I should try to help. Are there signals that could alert me to trouble?
A: This is a situation that many families face. Many families do not discuss finances until a crisis occurs, and by then, it often is too late.
Some adults hesitate to discuss financial concerns with their parents for fear of appearing overly interested in their possible inheritance. Others don’t want to think about the day when their parents will be unable to manage on their own.
Parents are often reluctant to acknowledge they need help, and some equate asking for help with loss of independence.
Timely discussions before a crisis help ensure that your parents are part of the decision-making process. These discussions also reduce disagreements among siblings about how parents’ assets should be handled if the time comes.
Some situations might indicate a problem. If you become aware of second notices, fees and prior-month balances on routine household bills or utility cutoffs, you might offer assistance in paying monthly bills.
If checking accounts are overdrawn or have bounced checks or excessive fees, you might suggest helping to reconcile the checking account when the statement comes in.
Credit card problems can indicate a need for help, perhaps through monitoring account statements or canceling unneeded cards and charge accounts.
Severe illness or death of the first parent would certainly indicate the need for discussion and offer of assistance.
Who you include in these discussions depends on your family dynamics. However, your parents’ wishes should largely determine who takes part. If your family relations are tense and siblings disagree, an outside professional might be used to facilitate a meeting.
n “What Medicare Beneficiaries Must Know to Prepare for Medicare’s 2013 Enrollment” seminar, 10 a.m. to noon Thursday, South Oxnard Senior Center, 200 E. Bard, Oxnard, 385-8042; 10-11:30 a.m. Sept. 11, Camarillo Health Care District, 3639 E. Las Posas Road, Camarillo, 381-1952; 9-10:30 a.m. Sept. 18, Ojai Little House/Help of Ojai, 111 W. Santa Ana, Ojai, 646-5122; 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 18, Ojai West Campus, 370 Baldwin Road, Ojai, 649-8018.
n Brain fitness classes, six-week group for those 70 and older 10-11:30 a.m. Sept. 11, class for those 50 and older 6-7:30 p.m., Borchard Community Center, 190 Reino Road, Newbury Park, 381-2791; 3:30-5 p.m. Sept. 11, Goebel Senior Adult Center, 1385 E. Janss Road, Thousand Oaks, 381-2744.
n “What Are Your Options for Care When Assistance Is Needed?” seminar, 1:30-3 p.m. Sept. 12, Westlake Village Civic Center, 31200 E. Oak Crest Drive in Westlake Village. Call 495-6250 for information.
n Fraud Prevention Summit 2012, 7:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 13, Courtyard by Marriott, 600 E. Esplanade Drive in Oxnard. Call 477-7310 for more information and reservations.