By Dr. Marion Somers, Ph. D., Dr. Marion Tips


  1. Add up all assets. These include: checking accounts, savings accounts, stocks, bonds, rental property income, home owner property, safe deposit boxes, IRAs, 401Ks, pensions, vehicles, collectibles, and hidden valuables.
  2. Add up all monthly expenses. These include: mortgage and/or rent, property taxes, equity loans, parking, home maintenance, condominium fees, utilities, phone, water, food, car payments/maintenance, DMV fees, gas, clothing and shoes, medicine, legal fees, monthly memberships, credit card debt, and all forms of insurance.
  3. Add up monthly income. This includes: pensions, current job, interest, bonds, dividends, CDs, annuities, rental properties, other businesses, social security, disability, and unemployment.
  4. Determine if your elder has enough money to live on for the remaining years. Your elder's financial situation can be a difficult issue to address. The very nature of the discussion calls his/her independence into question. Address finances as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more likely it is that problems will arise.
  5. Figure out the best insurance plan. Determine exactly what is covered and the level of coverage. Ask questions and comparison shop where appropriate. Eliminate all excess and/or overlapping insurance, and be sure to fill out all proper forms in a timely manner.
  6. Determine if there are any government programs and benefits your elder should apply for. Apply for Social Security, food stamps, veterans' benefits, Supplemental Security Income, and both Medicare and Medicaid if it applies. You'll have a lot of paperwork to fill out, but the resulting funds could make all the difference, especially for your elder.
  7. Figure out the cash value of all life insurance policies. Start by understanding exactly what your elder's various policies cover. Get the original documents if possible. Figure out who the agent is or was. You might even find there are multiple policies or duplicate policies.
  8. Have a clear tax plan in place for when your elder passes on. States have various time frames, usually six months to one year, for when the tax bill must be settled. All new tax issues must be understood. Hire a professional to help you understand which assets go through probate and which do not (probate is when the state delays dispersing assets upon death and assesses the estate for tax purposes).
  9. A reverse mortgage can be a useful and valuable option. Seniors over the age of 60 are eligible to apply for a reverse mortgage. This is when your elder secures his/her house to the bank after a fair appraised value has been agreed upon. This is a complicated process, so make sure you are fully informed.
  10. Rely on a skilled professional such as an accountant, an elder care lawyer, a financial advisor, or a tax expert. How do you find these professionals? You may locate them via the Better Business Bureau, word of mouth, or anyone who is connected to your family. Professional expertise will save you many headaches and could ultimately lead to significant savings of your elder's finances.

©2006 Elder Health Resources of America, Inc.


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