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Making Finances Easier for Older Family Members

Most older people say to their family members, "We don't want to be a burden on you." However, the truth is that while most won't need financial support, as most people age, they become more dependent on their children, close relatives, or acquaintances to help them manage.

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With an intention to make things easier for your younger relatives and loved ones, you can complete this checklist of particularly important matters to take care of as you grow older:

1. Housing. Ideally, family members of older and younger generations discuss later-life housing options well before a change is needed. By "housing options," I mean the possibility of having to enter an assisted-living facility or nursing home. If you do not cover this ground before you have to make the decision, you can pretty much be assured that the proposal will be met with some resistance. This is unfair. It sends the child or other concerned family member on a guilt trip when, had the family considered these matters earlier, they could have more rationally talked over prospect going into a nursing home.  

Many older homeowners insist on staying put in houses that are too big, too hazardous, and too difficult or costly to maintain. The same can be said of many apartment owners. That's a shame, because there are so many alternatives available for those who want places more livable than an old home in constant need of repair. An added bonus could be lower housing costs, particularly if your relative moves into smaller quarters.

If the older person in your life resists downsizing because there won't be enough room to house visiting children and grandchildren, remind him or her that after a day of youngsters rampaging through the house, it might be nice to send the visiting family to a hotel for the night.

2. Insurance. Make sure your parents keep and maintain the right kind and amount of insurance. Periodically review your parents' insurance policies to make sure the coverage is adequate but not excessive and that the premiums are paid. Many of us have heard reports of unscrupulous insurance agents taking advantage of elders by selling them duplicate coverage or too narrowly defined coverage (cancer or burial insurance, for example). A competent insurance agent is indispensable.

Next: Health care, investments, and daily money issues. >>

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