BOSTON (CBS) – According to the National Council on Aging, more than 13 million older adults are considered economically insecure, living on less than $22,000 a year. Over 30% of older adults rely on Social Security for 90% of their income. In addition, 6 million seniors are at risk of going hungry every day.

Women outlive men on an average of five or more years. And often as widows their standard of living changes. They have less income. So the next thing on your list is to ask the money questions.

Does your mom have enough money to maintain her current lifestyle? Has the recession eroded her nest egg? Does she have a nest egg? How much does she have and how is she spending it? Did dad have a pension? Did it go away when he died?

Help her do a net worth statement. What has she got and how is it owned? Then help her create a budget. Write down all of the income; Social Security (which by the way you want to be sure is direct deposited), pensions, retirement plan withdrawals.  Then help her figure out where she is spending her money each month. Review the bills.

You may need to play detective here and find out where the money goes. Is she using the shopping channels as entertainment? Check for unopened shipping boxes in the garage. Is she making donations to charities that solicit by mail? Giving money to your brother to cover his gambling debts? Is she using her credit cards to supplement her income?

How much debt does she have? According to the Federal Reserve’s latest numbers, one third (32%) of retirees (age 65-74) still have mortgages on their primary residences!

Average household debt for those over age 65 rose 164%. There is increased credit card debt among our seniors and bankruptcy filings have tripled in the past 10 years. Seniors make up the fastest growing segment of the population seeking bankruptcy protection. Mom could be up to her elbows in debt.

If mom is in debt what resources does she have to reverse this situation? What is she willing to do to change the situation? Can you help? Does she need to meet with a Credit Counselor?

Helping aging parents is a process. Role reversal is very difficult. Think about how you would feel if your kids ganged up on you some weekend and told you how to live your life!


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