Automate bill-paying. Among the first observable signs of cognitive decline when it comes to money is forgetting to pay a bill or paying bills twice. As an adult ages, put as many bills on autopay as possible — for example, an automatic debit from a checking account.
Examine expenses. Create a monthly budget and examine ongoing expenses, such as telephone and cable TV, to determine if they are unnecessarily high. If the person is susceptible to sales pitches, place his or her phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry, donotcall.gov, and opt out of mail advertising at DMAChoice.org.
Get online. Internet access to financial accounts is key, especially for monitoring an elderly relative's finances from afar. "You have that early warning that potentially something is happening that you need to find out about," Beck said. "You can do that from across the country now."
It allows a relative to monitor for odd spending patterns, identity theft and other forms of fraud, which has become a growing problem for the elderly. "You can say, 'Mom, I'm just going to look at your account to make sure nobody is doing anything bad,'" Beck said.
Consolidate. Consolidate accounts into as few as possible. For example, you might combine checking and savings accounts into a single bank and transfer investments to one investment firm. Fewer accounts makes money life easier to manage.
Monitor credit. You can help monitor potential payment defaults and new accounts that may have been opened by going to annualcreditreport.com and accessing the credit report for free from the three major credit bureaus. The person will need to provide his or her Social Security number.
You call pull one free report per year from each of the three credit agencies, so it's a good idea to stagger them, pulling one every four months.
You can also help the person place a security freeze with the credit bureaus, which blocks new accounts from being opened in that person's name without specific permission. Be aware that a credit freeze could be a hassle and cause delays for some activities outside of applying for loans and credit cards, such as signing up for a wireless phone plan.