Protecting Your Parents’ Finances

Now is the time to get a handle on Mom and Dad's money matters. It could make the difference between a comfortable retirement or tarnished golden years.

other functions for her because [of her] foresight," Smith says.

The prospect of being debilitated was reason enough for Daisy Mitchell, 67, to open up and share her financial information with her children. "A lot of older black people feel like their money is their business," says Mitchell. "But I’ve always felt that family is family. If something should happen to me, I don’t want my kids to come in searching for papers, and looking for this or that."

Mitchell started talking about her finances with her three sons around the time of her retirement, when she faced a major decision: she could’ve taken out her pension money in one lump sum, put it into an annuity or invested it elsewhere. After consulting with a financial planner, her son David suggested that his mother roll the money over into an individual retirement account. She agreed and has been happy with the decision ever since. Still, mother and son don’t see eye to eye on everything. For instance, David, who has power of attorney along with his eldest sibling, is trying to get his mother to take less money out of her monthly investments and diversify her portfolio holdings. So far, Mrs. Mitchell hasn’t made up her mind, but says: "I imagine I’ll [eventually] go along with it." Asserts David: "Now that she’s on a fixed income, we want to make sure that she can continue to live the lifestyle she wants and that her investments are really working for her."

The elder Mitchell’s lifestyle includes lots of travel — albeit on a strict budget. Originally from Quincy, Florida, just outside Tallahassee, she lives on $900 per month from Social Security, $200 monthly from a retirement fund and varying sums from certificates of deposit that mature at different intervals. She also owns her own home in Chester Township, Pennsylvania, where she’s lived for the past 43 years. A dedicated and proud bargain hunter, the elder Mitchell is known for buying food on sale or in bulk. She
also shops for clothes in swap meets and thrift stores, and once chided her son for giving her $75 worth of roses because they were "impractical."

"My friends tease me about my penny-pinching," she acknowledges with a laugh. But it’s that kind of thrift that also allows her to enjoy a rewarding retirement in which she can travel frequently and lavish gifts on her grandchildren. For example, upon her retirement, Mitchell took her 18-year-old granddaughter to the Bahamas as a graduation gift. And last year, she went on a seven-country swing through Europe, visiting Italy, Switzerland and France. The cost of the 15-day excursion: $2,059 — paid for primarily with the interest from her CDs.

She has also prepared for her funeral costs by purchasing what’s known as a burial CD. Upon her death, the funds from the CD will pay for her funeral, and any leftover funds, plus interest, will go to her heirs.

Elsie Darby adopted

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