Help Your Elderly Family Members Avoid Financial Hassles

The modern, high-tech world of personal finance can be a minefield for many older Americans. If you have elder family members and friends who sometimes get confused, or frustrated, with the dizzying pace of change in banking, here’s how you can help.

For many older Americans, the banking system has become an increasingly unfamiliar place. Changes in how Americans use financial services have happened fast, and not all people have embraced that pace of change. Especially the elderly.

Things like mobile and online banking, the move to a “cashless” society and exotic new investment options can be a confusing – even dangerous – place for older Americans.

Credit counseling service Take Charge America recently offered a set of tips for helping older family members to take advantage of convenient new banking options and avoid the pitfalls of modern consumer finance. (We’ll share some of their tips, and add a few of our own.)

Check With Changing Policies

Among their recommendations, the firm said that helping familiarize ageing relatives with the “real time banking” universe is #1. For instance, people who are used to the “old world” where checks took days to clear can often get a rude surprise in today’s world, where checks act more like debit cards.

Nowadays, cash is immediately withdrawn from an account once a check is deposited.

Check deposits can also being held longer than in the past — in some cases up to seven days. Older Americans, who got used to managing their money in the old days, can wind up with overdrawn accounts while deposits clear at a snail’s pace.

Help them to understand how the different payment and banking systems they deal with work by reading the fine print on banking policies that affect them.

Going Digital

The company also points out that certain digital options – such as mobile-only coupons, Internet comparison shopping and bill-paying apps – often require the use of technologies that have not been optimized as “senior friendly.”

As we move through the holiday season, with families getting together, see if you can help a senior relative to upgrade their computer systems and download the applications necessary to make these technologies work.

Avoiding Senior Scams

The company also cautions that seniors are big targets for financial fraud. Scams targeting seniors have gone digital recently, with many being conducted online.

One pernicious scam method we’ve seen are phony “account alerts” sent to seniors via email. Let your older relatives know they should never respond directly to email purporting to come from a company they do financial business with.

Tell them to go directly to the “real” company’s website, and log on as usual. Or, better yet, give that company a call. Seniors can then safely verify if there really is “a problem with their account” without the risk of falling into a scammer’s grip.

Keeping Records In A Paperless World

Take Charge America also warns that the increasingly “paperless” financial world can be a source of confusion for older Americans, who came of age in a world where people kept hard-copy records of bills, contracts and other important documents.

With paperless finance these documents are sent electronically — usually via email. Seniors need to have an easy method of printing out hard copy or saving digital copies of their financial records.

Help them to set up these easy methods by upgrading their computer and printer systems and set up easy-to-use checklists for ensuring that nothing gets lost.

Don’t Fear The New

One last thing: Many of the technologies available today can do a lot to help seniors to save money, enjoy greater convenience and lead more financially healthy, independent lives. For instance, debit cards and other electronic payment systems can actually be much safer than checks.

Online banking can be a source of clarity and greater access for seniors by giving them a 24/7 means of keeping track of their finances. Those coupon sites which require a downloaded app or two can actually be a very convenient way for seniors to save money on the products they use.

Try to help your senior relatives and friends maintain up-to-date technology, and give them some good tips on how to use it effectively. Let them know about high-tech scams and other dangers, but otherwise help them to make the best use of the technologies available.

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