April 25, 2014
Mother's Day is May 11. If you're wracking your brain for ways to show your mom appreciation for all the sacrifices she made while raising you, here's a thought: Why not offer to spend some time helping to sort through her financial, legal and medical paperwork to make sure everything is in order?
While flowers and candy offer immediate gratification, I'll bet your mom will truly appreciate the long-term value of getting her records in order now so that she – and you – will be able to take appropriate actions later on, should the need arise.
Some of the areas you might want to organize include:
Retirement income sources. Gather these documents so your mom will have a better idea how much income she'll have available throughout retirement:
Outstanding debts. Also gather monthly statements and outstanding balances owed for major expenses including: home mortgage or other property loans, home equity loan or line of credit, car loan or lease, credit cards, medical bills and personal loans.
Other important documents. Your mom should have documents instructing how she'd like her affairs to be handled, both while she's living and after death. Look for:
Review these documents regularly and make updates whenever her situation changes. For example, make sure that designated beneficiaries for your mom's will, life insurance and retirement plans accurately reflect her current wishes.
If you need help guiding financial discussions, Social Security has created a special website for women (www.ssa.gov/women) that provides information on retirement, disability and other issues – in English and Spanish. They also have a Retirement Estimator (www.ssa.gov/estimator) that enters her earnings information from their records to estimate her projected Social Security benefits under different scenarios (age at retirement, future earnings projections, etc.)
Another good resource is the Women's Saving Initiative, a program jointly developed by Heinz Family Philanthropies, the Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER) and Visa Inc. This program features a free book called "What Women Need to Know About Retirement," which you can download as a PDF or audio file at www.practicalmoneyskills.com/resources.
If you need professional help, consult a licensed financial planner who can design a personalized retirement strategy. If you don't know one, try the Financial Planning Association (www.plannersearch.org).
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