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

QUESTION: I'm trying to get a better understanding of my mother's expenses. Do you have a master list you usually work from? Sue Ann in Tennessee, 56

ANSWER: Yes. Every situation is unique, but I start with the following list of monthly expenses from these common categories (and there may be others):

  1. Mortgage and/or rent
  2. Property taxes
  3. Equity loans
  4. Parking
  5. Home maintenance
  6. Condominium fees
  7. Utilities
  8. Phone
  9. Water
  10. Food
  11. Car payments
  12. Car maintenance
  13. Department of Motor Vehicle fees
  14. Gas
  15. Clothing
  16. Shoes
  17. Medicines/prescriptions
  18. Legal fees
  19. Monthly memberships
  20. Credit card debt
  21. Annual credit card fees
  22. Child support/alimony
  23. Cleaners/laundry
  24. Pet food and care
  25. Car insurance
  26. Boat expenses and insurance
  27. Recreational vehicle expenses and insurance
  28. Insurance for valuable collectibles such as coins, stamps, and art work
  29. Disability insurance
  30. Home renters insurance
  31. Home owners insurance
  32. Property insurance
  33. Business insurance
  34. Life insurance
  35. Medicare insurance
  36. Medicaid insurance
  37. VA insurance
  38. Long-term care insurance
  39. Entertainment
  40. Vacation and travel
  41. Books
  42. Subscriptions
  43. Hair dresser and/or barber
  44. Makeup
  45. Jewelry
  46. Cable TV
  47. Liquor
  48. Miscellaneous pocket cash
  49. Manicures/pedicures
  50. Facials

Many of today's retirees are living ten years longer than they thought they would. This has created a difficult issue: They are outliving their resources. If you can avoid doing so, never cut the monthly budget so close that an unforeseen accident would ruin your mother's finances. Also, be sure to provide for radical change like an accident or advanced disease by having adequate insurance.

Make sure all of your mother's bills are paid on time. This process can be very time consuming. I always suggest hiring an elder care lawyer, accountant, or tax consultant to guide you through this often complicated process. It is well worth the cost to understand exactly how to manage all of the assets and papers in an appropriate and timely manner. Professional guidance may save your sanity in addition to saving your mother's estate thousands of dollars.

©2006 Elder Health Resources of America, Inc.