When Greg Brandt’s father decided the time had come to replace his aging navy blue Buick Park Avenue, the 87 year-old did what any conscientious consumer would do; he scheduled a visit to the local auto mall in Lansing, MI and test drove vehicles that seemed like suitable candidates to meet his budget and transportation needs (1). At each of the dealerships the young salesmen were polite and quite eager to demonstrate the superior qualities unique to their particular brand and model. By the time Greg’s father returned home later that evening, the octogenarian proudly announced he had made a down payment and executed a purchase agreement to trade in the old Buick and take delivery of a new vehicle from the factory manufactured to his specifications. By all accounts, it seemed like a successful outing.
The problems arose several weeks later when it became evident the retired professor had placed factory orders for 3 separate vehicles with 3 different dealers…and made substantial down payments for each. While the auto dealers demonstrated remarkable understanding in helping to unwind the mess, it wasn’t entirely a painless process for anyone.
For most of us, knowing exactly when it might be time to step in and assist an aging parent manage their financial affairs isn’t always quite so obvious. It can be equally as challenging for the person requiring assistance to know when it's the right time to ask for help. Nobody really likes to think about the onset of diminished financial capacity (either for ourselves or for those we are closest to). However, simply ignoring red flags can not only extract a financial toll on a retirement nest egg, it also can impose an emotional toll on family members and loved ones.