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Can a Financial Planner Help with Budgeting?

by Chris Cooper, Financial Planning Expert
September 26, 2013

Question: My parents are not very careful with their money and spend more than they should. Can a financial planner help?

Answer: Perhaps, if your parents are ready to receive the message.  Is it that you disagree on what the spend their money on, or how they actually handle money, i.e., are they using payday loans, expensive money orders, or expensive prepaid debit cards?   Do they overspend and/or  paying bills late?
Financial Planners come from all different types of employers and business models.  Thus is it hard to say can a financial planner help someone who is not budgeting and managing their money well, because it will depend on what the financial planner does for a living.  Is the financial planner employed at a bank? A securities brokerage firm?  An insurance company? An investment management firm?
Some financial planners charge by the hour, similar to an accountant, bookkeeper, geriatric care manager, or attorney.  Most financial planners sell some form of financial service, be it insurance (especially annuities), banking products, (such as reverse mortgages), securities, (such as mutual funds, limited partnerships, etc.) or the management of  a securities portfolios (which a large number of financial planners who do this  call themselves fee only planners meaning they don’t sell commissionable products such as annuities and mutual funds, but charge on a percentage of the assets they are managing). 
Other professionals who provide budgeting and money management advice are daily money managers, (many of whom are geriatric care managers), private fiduciaries (who are licensed professionals in California and Florida) bookkeeping service providers and accountants.  Most of these professionals can actually take over the handing of income receipts and bill paying for your parents, where as financial planners generally do not provide this service because of employer or regulatory restrictions.  If you  engage someone to help your parents with bill paying be sure they are bondable and/or have professional insurance for this service if they have direct signature authority over accounts (having the login codes to the financial institutions websites of your parents accounts is the same as having signature authority!)
Talk with your parents, and share with them how you handle money, what financial institutions you use, software you use, and other things to show your folks that you are a good steward yourself, and that you have learned a thing or two. Maybe all they need is a system to handle things like you have learned. 
However, not being able to handle bill paying is often a symptom of dementia or depression.  Seek out a more comprehensive assessment by a geriatric care manager or physician.  
American Association of Daily Money Managers
Financial Planning Association
National Association of Elder Law Attorneys
National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers 
National Guardianship Association
Professional Fiduciaries Association in California
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Chris Cooper is the owner and founder of Chris Cooper & Company, Inc., a fee-only financial planning firm for elderly persons and the owner and founder of ElderCare Advocates, Inc. a private geriatric care management and long term care consulting firm. As a California Licensed Professional Fiduciary, Chris can serve as  Conservator of the Person and Estate under court appointment,  as Agent under a Durable Power of Attorney for Financial matters and Health Care matters.

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