A Financial Caregiver: Chances Are You’ll Be One or You’ll Need One

By Corey Carlisle

Thankfully and thoughtfully, my parents took great care to put their financial lives in order and laid meticulous plans to transfer their estate to their descendants upon either’s death or incapacity. That unfortunate day arrived for my dad earlier this year, and, like so many people, I found myself playing an informal role of financial consigliere to my mother as she assumed the daunting responsibilities of sorting out my father’s finances. This proved even more daunting in an era when electronic transactions and record keeping are increasingly the norm.

Turns out I am not alone in this role. An estimated one in four Americans are caregiving for someone, and nearly two-thirds of those are helping (formally or informally) manage someone’s financial affairs. Given the challenges of managing money and the fact that life expectancy continues to rise, almost everyone is going to either be a caregiver or need one. There’s even a national designation for the month of November as National Family Caregivers Month.

Banks are often the first line of defense in preventing fraud that targets their elderly customers, but they, too, can assist the transfer of responsibility by helping seniors select an appropriate financial caregiver and facilitating financial transactions. Banks of all sizes and types are creating or strengthening their education efforts in these areas. Some examples include:

Bank of America has launched several initiatives dedicated to addressing the needs of an aging population and their caregivers. These include combating elder financial fraud, increased awareness of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease and implementing caregiving best practices through training and resources for its financial advisors and corporate clients. The bank also supports its employees who are caregivers through a variety of resources, including access to emergency back-up care for adults and children, professional elder care assessments, elder care law services and an internal parents and caregivers employee network.

FMB — a $428-million asset bank serving the north Florida and south Georgia regions that was acquired earlier this month by The First N.A. — launched a National Family Caregiver Month awareness campaign last year to help equip caregivers with tools to navigate legal responsibilities that could affect their finances.

“Nearly 44 million Americans provide care to a loved one who is suffering from an illness or disability,” says FMB President Ian Donkin. “FMB wants to help caregivers manage their loved one’s bank transactions, budget and learn how to safeguard their finances. Financial caregivers play a critical role in keeping their loved ones’ money safe. No matter what your role, it’s extremely important to learn your legal responsibilities and any law changes that may affect them.”

Bank of the Rockies, a $129 million bank based in White Sulphur Springs, Mont., winner of a 2017 ABA Foundation Community Commitment Award in the Protecting Older Americans category, developed a “CONversations About Cons” series of round table discussions on educating everyone—from the frontline teller staff, operations employees and lenders within the bank, to the elderly, their caregivers and the general public—on detecting and preventing elder fraud and exploitation. The series also provides direction on what steps to take when fraud or exploitation is suspected.

If you’re looking for resources to start or amplify your bank’s efforts on communicating the importance of financial caregiving, get involved with the ABA Foundation’s Safe Banking for Seniors campaign and take advantage of all the free, turnkey resources that are available at aba.com/seniors. Organizations or agencies focusing on the well-being of seniors or their caregivers can also request a banker-led presentation via our FinEdLink portal at aba.com/FinEdLink.