Q: My dad has always handled the finances and paperwork for the household. My mother has said she didn’t want the responsibility, but I am concerned about what will occur if something happens to my dad and he could no longer do it. Any suggestions as to how to get my mother involved?
A: It is very important for each spouse to have knowledge of the other’s responsibilities. This doesn’t necessarily mean taking over the job but at least having an understanding so that if the need arose, they would be able to function or know how to get help.
Separation of responsibilities sometimes comes about because one spouse feels he or she is better qualified. Other times, it happens because one spouse does not want any part of a particular chore.
Communication and sharing is the answer.
While it doesn’t require becoming a wizard at investing or an expert in accounting, each spouse must know enough to keep everything functioning. Each needs to have knowledge of the income source, amount, monthly bills and investment locations. If this information is kept on a computer, the spouse who is not involved must have a paper backup if they do not use the computer. If they do use a computer, they must have the password if one is required.
Records should be kept so both spouses know what accounts they have at what banks and other financial institutions, the names and contact numbers for financial professionals, employee benefits, health care coverage and retirement plans.
Perhaps the spouse not currently involved could prepare these records, thus learning this vital information. The workload could be divided for a short time. Paying the bills for a time would give your mom an understanding of what comes in and what goes out each month.
It is most important that she understand where their health care coverage comes from and what it covers. If health care coverage comes in part from a former employer, it is especially important to understand how it works, where to call with questions and if and when it could be canceled.
If your dad meets with financial advisers, he could involve your mom. She not only would learn what was being discussed but also would meet the people involved. This would make it much easier for her if she has to meet with them alone.
Your dad, when going through paperwork, could add explanatory notes on plans and documents explaining his intentions. This will provide a foundation from which to work.
You and your siblings can help your mom if the time comes. Also if the time comes, everyone involved should understand the need to wait before making any major financial decisions.
A year is a good period to put everything on hold unless an emergency occurs. This will allow the surviving spouse to understand expenses that occur throughout the year such as income taxes, property taxes and insurance premiums.
I hope this helps a little.
Jan. 26: Empowered Caregiver Series seminar, “Improving Your Caregiving Experience,” 5:30-7 p.m. at the Senior Concerns Day Care Center, 401 Hodencamp Road in Thousand Oaks. Call 497-0189 for reservations.
Jan. 28: “Senior Transportation — Drive or Not, Van and Bus” presentation, 10 a.m. to noon in the Camarillo City Council Chambers, 601 Carmen Drive. Call City Hall at 388-5397 or the Pleasant Valley Senior Center at 482-4881 for more information.
Jan. 30: Senior Concerns presents Caregiver Recognition Day, 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Los Robles Greens, 299 S. Moorpark Road in Thousand Oaks. If you are a family caregiver for an aging loved one or know someone who is, you are invited. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 497-0189.
Jan. 31: History Comes Alive presentation, “Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood,” 2 p.m. at the Goebel Adult Community Center, 1385 E. Janss Road in Thousand Oaks. Tickets are $5 and are available at the Goebel Center.
Looking for volunteers: The Long Term Care Ombudsman Program is looking for volunteers. The program’s new training program will be in the first week of February. If you are interested, call Kathy at 656-1986, ext. 101, for more information or to sign up.