As children, reversing our parents’ roles to have discussions surrounding money can be difficult—even more so when financial discussions were not part of the child-rearing process. Some parents are trying to maintain independence, and they view this type of dialogue as their offspring’s attempts to control them. Learn how to help your parents save money and stay secure when using technology.
Some families find success in having conversations that are not about big purchases but instead focus on smaller money matters that don’t feel as intrusive to the parents. One path for opening the lines of communication is choosing a topic such as how they can use technology to manage finances.
Online security and concerns
As more and more elderly become comfortable with tech devices and services, such as social media, online banking, and mobile devices, their risks of encountering scam attempts to increase. Children of senior parents can help by explaining how online scams work, where people are most likely to encounter such attempts, and what do to if the parent suspects or falls victim to a scammer.
In the same way, electronics pose risks. They offer significant benefits to seniors. They can use Skype, Zoom, and Facebook for visual conversations with the grandkids. Social media can allow them to connect with and stay in touch with old friends and make new ones, especially during a lockdown or limited mobility.
Chats about using online tools for managing investment, banking, shopping, and appointment setting provide good openings for initiating conversations around credit card and password security as well as the types of information they put online and how it might be used.
Lots of scammers specifically target senior citizens counting on their inexperience to provide an opening. Without the benefit of insight into the myriad nefarious angles these crooks use, older people might not recognize an attempt right away. Add to this, mental afflictions that might make a senior less aware, and it’s a veritable land of opportunity for the unscrupulous.
Parents will feel more comfortable reaching out to a child about being scammed if they have already been talking about the dangers and are sharing resources and stories about avoiding scams.
Review recurring expenses
Starting discussions about the rise in costs for the internet, cell phone, and cable contracts can provide an opening to a review of recurring expenses. Many elderly tend to enter into a service contract without a second thought for years or even many years. They may be on an outdated plan with low service commitments or with more services than they need.
Some companies offer family plans—even if the family members reside at a different address. A careful review with the help of the company’s customer service department to review usage requirements is likely to find hidden gems of ways to save money. Don’t forget to ask about senior discounts or promotional pricing. Some companies offer specials to new subscribers but will allow current customers the same benefit if they ask.
Help parents create a budget
Most articles about financial planning recommend budgets—with good reason! Budgets are the best way for anyone to have a clear picture of expenses and income and to surface disparity between the two.
There are many online budgeting tools designed for the novice user. Be a part of the discovery and help find a solution easy to use for senior citizens. Be patient when choosing the software and providing training. Remember that the more positive this experience is and the more help they receive, the more likely they will have a successful experience they will want to repeat.
Any reasonable budget will help find ways to reduce expenses, which, on its own, does not equate to making sacrifices. Senior citizens may not be aware of the ways today’s technology can help them save money.
For example, if seniors are spending money to make long-distance calls, show them how to use Skype, Facebook, or Facetime, which all enable free calls. Some banks and credit card companies offer a small discount for receiving monthly statements online. For seniors no longer able to drive, using Uber or Lyft instead of a taxi or other paid transportation can save money on attending doctor’s visits or meeting up with friends.
Online selling platforms are a gold mine
As parents age, maintaining a large household becomes more burdensome, and many begin to consider downsizing. Even if a smaller house is not in their immediate future, they may wonder why they have collected so much stuff over the years and lose interest in continuing to keep it around.
Introduce your parents to eBay, Etsy, and Craigslist and show them how to make money by letting off no-longer-precious items. Of course, along with these platforms comes a measure of risk, so if the senior citizen is not tech-savvy enough, offer to do it for them.
Suggest using the money on something they’ve wanted to do but couldn’t afford—take a family trip, pay off a debt, put money away for retirement.
Open conversations for the benefit of both
Providing help to aging parents can be frustrating, but the rewards are tremendous. Not only does the entire family benefit from spending time together, but most parents will also place more trust in their children over time. For families distanced by miles, online video calls make helping parents from afar a reality. It is with persistence and patience that delicate and sensitive topics surrounding finances will become easier for parents and children.
I hope this guide will be useful to help your parents save money and stay secure.
Featured Photo by Dario Valenzuela on Unsplash