Teaching Financial Responsibility to a Senior Citizen
I'm new to this forum, and, frankly, only glanced at the titles of the current three pages of posts, so if this is a typically-asked subject, just let me know. I am partly venting and partly requesting assistance and advice.
My husband's 81 year old mother is in debt up to her ears, and on Friday we are going to her house to sort out her finances. We don't know the specifics, but it appears that she has run up a bunch of credit card debt. It has come to a head because she wrecked her car in an accident, had to borrow money from my husband to pay the ticket, and now is without transportation.
My first question is: can someone point me to a spreadsheet that would help us help her walk through her finances to see where she stands? I understand the process generally - I think. We need to see what her income is from Social Security and her pension, and then figure out her debt and her weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly expenses. But, rather than my trying to re-invent the wheel, is there a spreadsheet that we could use as a tickler system? She has always been secretive about her finances, so we have no idea what we are going to find.
Now the vent. I'm trying to make myself understand that an 81 year old woman, living alone, lonely, and unable/unwilling to make the slightest change in her life has a different set of priorities than I do. She spent six months thinking she was going to die before last Christmas based on a dream she had. Yet she is healthy, active, alert, and would be working if she could find someone to hire her, although she is hard of hearing and won't even consider a hearing aid (money and vanity). Her mother lived until her late 80's, so we see her living well into her 90's.
The idea of penny pincing (in the areas a normal person might consider) is completely foreign to her - no generic drugs, won't give up the weekly trips to the expensive hairdresser 30 miles away on the other side of the city, or feeding the squirrels and birds, driving her letters to the post office rather than leaving them in the mailbox, to name just a few. She drives over 30,000 miles a year. And then there is the compulsive shopping and hoarding. (Please don't waste your time trying to justify or minimize any of these expenditures because I would wear out my fingers cataloging other excesses; this is just to give you a flavor of the problem. And what she doesn't spend money on, such as medications for herself or upkeep of her home, is equally frustrating. Today my husband spent 1.5 hours at the DMV with her waiting to get a copy of the title to her car because she couldn't find it in the house through the clutter.
My plan for Friday is only to gather information. But any words of wisdom for how to help someone in a situation like this would be most welcome. A psychiatrist has advised us that we pretty much need to let her hit rock bottom, and that bailing her out is not the way to go.
We went through this same thing with her five years ago, and my husband arranged a home equity loan for her (her house, not ours). Apparently the fear after that event wore off.