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HORIZON BLOG

Mom Ignores Her Bills

 

Question

"Paying bills seems to be a bit of a challenge for my elderly mom. For most of her adult life, Dad took care of that function for our family. Now that he’s gone, the job is left to her.

The problem is that she ignores the bills. She really doesn’t process mail well at all. She stacks it up in piles found in several rooms all over the house. One is never really sure if there are bills to pay.  

She doesn’t get angry when I try to help her round up the bills, which I do every two weeks or so. It’s a bit of a game of hide and seek, it seems.  

Inevitably, she pays some bills late, and then has to pay fees. She really can’t afford to pay more than she has to. The good thing is that she doesn’t have that many bills to pay, so I guess it could be worse.

She does get late notices at times, and disconnect letters as well. Then she gets upset, and I have to hustle about to solve the issue and help her find the bill, or call the company.

So, do you have any suggestions for us?

 

Answer

Based on what you’ve said, I conclude that your mother lives alone. Her support system for her independent living is you, since you’re the one who swoops in and fixes her money management issues.

It’s just fine for you to assume that role for her, since she hasn't managed money in her adult life. Now it’s time to make the job easier on you. A better system is past due.

With the electronics we have today, bill paying has never been simpler. I do, though, recommend you start with the basics. Here’s what I suggest:

  • Make a list of all the bills she’s likely to pay in a year. Simply go through her checkbook, bank statements and credit card bills for the last year and list them out. The list will include property taxes, mortgage, credit cards, insurance, utilities, medical bills, rent, household services like lawn care and pest control, to mention a few.
  • Next to each item, list the frequency they need to be paid.
  • Next, establish a plan with your mother on where all bills are placed the day they arrive.
  • If she’s willing, set up autopay for most of her bills. Many businesses will allow this and they can be directly paid from her account without worry. It’s much like how her Social Security arrives each month into her account.
  • Make it a habit to check on the bill paying at least once a week so that a routine is established.

If you take these few simple steps, life will be easier for the two of you. Do realize that you have likely assumed this task for the rest of her days, and that is fine. I believe it will be less stressful.

I wish you well and bless you for helping your mother with this task.

 

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