In several recent columns, I've advised seniors to look within their families for people to help manage their money in the event they can't do it themselves.
But what if you find that your family tree has a bunch of untrustworthy, greedy, incompetent or trifling adults barely managing their own lives and money?
Or as one reader approaching his senior years wrote: "What do you do if you have no family members or friends who are younger than yourself? I am divorced, with no children and estranged from my only sibling and her children. I have no one to turn to other than friends who are also my age. I am not old yet, but this issue does concern me when I start to think about it. [Is] there any sort of financial caretakers that you can hire?"
Actually, there is.
You can always hire an accountant, financial adviser or attorney. But they don't come cheap.
However, there is a growing and reasonably priced industry of financial caregivers who specialize in helping seniors manage their day-to-day personal finances.
If you need this kind of help, there are two organizations you should contact -- the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers (NAPGCM) and the American Association of Daily Money Managers (AADMM). (To find someone in your local area affiliated with the NAPGCM, go to www.caremanager.org or call 520-881-8008. The AADMM can be reached at 301-593-5462 or on the Web at www.aadmm.com.) The NAPGCM is a nonprofit organization that provides referrals to licensed professionals, primarily social workers and nurses, who work with families in need of assistance with caregiving. About 20 percent of geriatric care managers also provide daily money management services, according to Linda Fodrini-Johnson, a certified geriatric care manager and NAPGCM board member.
"Being able to manage their finances is a growing issue with seniors," said Fodrini-Johnson, owner and executive director of Eldercare Services in Walnut Creek, Calif.
You can expect to pay a geriatric care manager anywhere from $40 to $100 an hour, Fodrini-Johnson said.
Also for an hourly fee, daily money managers affiliated with the AADMM will help you organize and keep track of your financial and medical paperwork or make calls to your creditors. The cost is usually somewhere between $25 and $60 an hour.
"I think it's a good alternative for people whose only alternative is to hire an accountant or attorney," said Liz Crystal, an AADMM member based in Green Brook, N.J.
For her personal-finance services, Crystal charges $50 a visit, and she can do everything from helping people pay bills to explaining to seniors what's in their investment portfolio.
Lee Keene, also an AADMM member and daily money manager out of Charlotte, said he got into the business after a caregiver stole $40,000 from his elderly parents.
Keene said he works with Alzheimer's patients, bedridden people and seniors who have trouble seeing or writing. He charges $25 an hour with a two-hour minimum. He usually visits clients twice a month. Most of the time, paying bills, balancing a client's checkbook and going over credit card statements comes to $100 a month.
The AADMM and the NAPGCM point out that the profession of daily money management is not regulated by any state or federal organization. So don't hire anyone without doing some homework and asking lots of questions.
Money managers I spoke with offered these suggestions before hiring someone to handle your daily finances:
* Look for someone with credentials and then verify the credentials. Ask if they belong to an association that has a code of ethics (both the AADMM and the NAPGCM do).
* Ask for references from clients and at least one professional.
* A daily money manager should not be giving out legal, accounting, investment or tax advice unless he or she is licensed to do so.
* Closely monitor the person's activities. It may be easy to just turn over all things financial to this type of professional. But don't do it. Double-check all the work. And definitely give the money manager the boot if he or she won't show you your own financial records.
* If you are going to allow someone to sign checks for you, be sure the person is bonded or has liability insurance. And be sure to find out the amount of liability coverage or size of the bond, advised Fodrini-Johnson.
* Be clear about the fees. Rates will vary depending on where you live. Some daily money managers may charge for their travel time and for out-of-pocket expenses such as postage stamps used to mail your bills or charges for long-distance calls made on your behalf.
If you don't have anybody else to help, the cost of a daily money manager seems reasonable to me.
Michelle Singletary discusses personal finance Tuesdays on NPR's "Day to Day" program and online at www.npr.org. Readers can write to her at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or send e-mail to email@example.com. Comments and questions are welcome, but please note that they may be used in a future column, with the writer's name, unless a specific request to do otherwise is indicated.