Well, not taxes specifically but money, for sure, which affects taxes and I ran out of better ideas.
One evening last week, I attended an event of a local non-profit, Elders in Action. Since 1968, they have worked in a variety of ways to create an age-friendly community in and around Portland, Oregon and since 1993, they have carried out a certification program businesses can take advantage of to meet the group’s best practices criteria for helping out elders.
Each year, Elders in Action publishes a directory of age-friendly businesses, a list that now numbers more than 1,000.
None of that is here nor there except that today’s post is a result of my attending the Elders in Action meeting and it’s always a good idea to mention what works well.
At this event, I met a young woman, Sandra Wagner, an independent financial consultant who lives and works in Portland, Oregon. (She was hard to miss, having in tow her toddler-age daughter – a remarkably well-behaved kid in a room full of grownups.)
About half of Sandra’s practice falls into the category of “sudden wealth” which doesn’t mean winning the lottery (although I suppose it could).
In Sandra’s case, it usually applies to the financial situation of a survivor when a spouse dies and what both shocked me and piqued my interest is that many of Sandra’s clients have no knowledge of the family finances.
One widower, who chose to have his wife cremated because it was less expensive than burial, struggled to get by day-to-day for 14 years until he was notified that his wife’s life insurance policy was about to lapse. The man had had no idea the policy existed and with Sandra’s help was able to improve his financial situation.
The opposite happens too – when survivors believe there is a lot of money or think money goes further than it does and spend beyond their means leaving fewer choices later in life when reality becomes evident.
These things happen when one-half of a couple handles the family money and the other half pays no attention due to disinterest or because the spouse does not want to burden him or her.
Many years ago, when I was still married, my father-in-law died suddenly and unexpectedly at age 60. His wife, my mother-in-law, had no clue, not one, of family finances: nothing about bank accounts, life insurance, if there was a mortgage on the house, credit cards beyond the one she carried with her and she did not even know the combination to her husband’s locked briefcase. It took weeks to unravel it all.
This is not uncommon today and Sandra confirmed my guess that although not unknown among young adults, these difficulties turn up mostly among older women – the age group of many Time Goes By readers.
Although it might also be a good guess that a financial consultant like Sandra is dealing with well-off clients who have a variety of investments, trusts and other complications of wealth, some of Sandra’s clients have little more than Social Security and, perhaps, a small pension. They need advice for such difficulties as, for example, figuring out how to pay for a new roof on the house.
Either way, family financial records need to be easily and quickly available when we die and Sandra has some good advice so that our spouse or designated person to handle our affairs won’t be as knee deep in ignorance as I was when my father-in-law died.
Create a binder or other organized place, says Sandra, to keep all financial records in one place. Include the necessary information for:
Credit card accounts
Other financial assets
Safe deposit box
Other useful information could be your will, a household inventory, accountant’s name and contact information and attorney’s name and contact information
Important: Because increasing amounts of banking and finance are going paperless, be sure to include IDs and passwords for those accounts and keep it all in a safe place.
Update the information as needed and be sure your spouse, adult children, other family member, friend or whomever will handle your affairs at your death knows where to find this information. It will make their life so much easier during what will be a difficult time for them.
It was fun to hear about a burgeoning cultural phenomenon from Sandra: that although it is mostly women in older generations who lack knowledge of household finances, there are growing numbers of young men who are clueless.
This occurs, says Sandra, when the primary breadwinner in a marriage is the woman earning, for example, six figures and the husband earns maybe $30,000 to $40,000. These men tend to hand off family finances to their wives.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: Living in the Desert