Minding Mom's Money

When and how to get help.

Learning how to help aging parents without burning out is an acquired skill. And it takes practice.

Here’s a tip a lot of us learn the hard way: Focus on what matters most and look for ways to delegate tasks that you don’t have the time, talent, or bandwidth for.

In other words: Don’t try to do everything yourself.

To quote King Lear, a notoriously difficult aging parent whose story is widely considered as the greatest estate planning tragedy in literary history: “that way madness lies.”

Take helping your parent with daily financial matters, for example. 

Making sure mom’s bills are paid and her financial accounts are safe is essential for her financial security. Especially if she’s never believed in balancing a checkbook, lives alone, or is beginning to have trouble with everyday financial tasks, which can be an early sign of cognitive decline

Could you take on the role of mom’s bookkeeper? Probably. But that doesn’t mean you should. 

You’re already managing your own finances. Your family. Your career. And all the other relationships and commitments in your life that require time, energy, and attention. Minding mom’s money could be a decimal point too far.

But if not you, then who?

Maybe you’re lucky and have a sibling who’s ready, willing, and able to step up. 

Or maybe asking your brother — the one who trades meme stocks and exotic crypto coins as a side hustle — isn’t the best idea. (It’s not!)

Okay. Now what? 

Don’t panic. You’re not alone. Many families need support monitoring and managing an older parent’s finances. And they’re turning to a lesser-known but growing number of financial specialists for help.

I’m talking about daily money managers (DMMs). 

Think of a daily money manager as a personal financial assistant who can help your parent with a variety of everyday financial tasks, such as paying bills, balancing checkbooks, and making sure property taxes get paid.

DMMs can also review bank and credit card statements, assemble financial documents for tax returns, and audit medical bills.

Important: DMMs often work as a team with CPAs, attorneys, social workers, and other licensed professionals, but they cannot act as accountants, financial advisors, or attorneys. 

Rates can run about $50 to $150 per hour, depending on the services your parent needs and the local market. Still, that’s less than what you’re likely to pay a CPA for similar work. And it’s infinitely less than the cost of missing signs of fraud on mom’s credit card statements. 

When it comes to hiring a DMM, trust is everything. Do your due diligence! Ask about experience, insurance, background checks, and training. Check references. 

How to find a DMM: Start by asking your parent’s accountant, financial advisor, or attorney for a referral. If that doesn’t pan out:

The American Association of Daily Money Managers maintains a nationwide database of DMMs. Members must pass background checks and adhere to professional standards and ethics. The Association also offers continuing education and a certification program.

Your local Area Agency on Aging (AAA) may also have names of non-profit agencies that provide basic DMM services through volunteers. These DMM programs usually have eligibility requirements for reduced and no-fee services. To find your local AAA, search online or use the Eldercare Locator.

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