Simplification Leads to Peace of Mind

In looking back over our fifteen years of working with seniors, there are recurring themes, one of which is simplification -

  • Ron had 13 credit cards, which led to credit card debt and a lot of confusion.
  • Selina had stocks in certificate form, which issued dividends that were getting lost in piles of mail.
  • Bob was ill and Sylvia could not handle the bills on top of caring for Bob and managing his doctors and medications, while trying to continue to work three days a week.
  • The Browns were overwhelmed by the medical bills and denials from their insurance company.
  • Paula was terrified about the process of preparing her tax materials for her accountant the year she had to do it for the first time.
  • Louis had not submitted his tax materials to his accountant in three years due to the confusion caused by too much mail.

After our initial consultation with a new client, our visits often involve clearing out the extraneous papers, sorting the remaining ones, and developing a simplification strategy to be implemented in future sessions.

EXTREMELY SIMPLE STEPS TO AVOID CHAOS

Incoming Mail

  • Establish Direct Deposit for Social Security, pension, required minimum distributions, annuities
  • Place all stocks/bonds/CDs, etc. in a brokerage account where:
    • All certificates are safe and splits and companies' sales documentation are managed
    • Dividends and interest are deposited directly
    • Year-end 1099s are consolidated into one statement
  • If there are many accounts held at one brokerage firm, ask for a consolidated statement (monthly or quarterly depending on the bank), so assets can be seen at a glance on one page and all statements are in one envelope
  • Requests for charitable contributions: throw out duplicate requests
  • Magazines: unsubscribe from magazines you are not reading
  • Stop unwanted catalogues by calling the 800 number that is on the order form and request that the company stop sending catalogues

Bills and Handling Paper

  • Establish auto pay for all utilities, rent/maintenance, insurance and any other monthly, quarterly, and even yearly expenses, if possible
  • Use only one to two credit cards and pay them in full, promptly
  • For taxes, have three folders labeled:
    • Charitable Contributions: for documentation of gifts given
    • Medical: for expenses (paid doctors, lab, and medicine bills: proof of travel to and from doctors and hospitals) and reimbursements
    • Income: to collect all incoming 1099s, K-1s, and if not retired, W-2s at year-end (it is okay to put in 1098s, which show interest paid, as well)

And as for our six clients...

  • Ron now has one credit card and the others have been paid off and cancelled
  • Selina has a brokerage account into which all her dividends go and when she needs money, it is transferred into her checking account
  • Bob and Sylvia's household bills were put on auto pay, distributions from their brokerage accounts now get transferred automatically each month into their checking account and Eddy & Schein goes in twice a month to handle other bills and filing
  • The Browns were happy to hand over the massive pile of Explanations of Benefits from the insurance companies and corresponding bills from the doctors and let us sort through them
  • Paula needed hand-holding because her husband had collected way more than the accountant needed. We had her income and expenditures entered in Quicken on her computer and once the papers were weeded out, she was able to fill out her accountant's Tax Organizer booklet easily
  • Louis needed us to work many hours pulling out important correspondence, bills, uncashed checks and three years of tax-related materials from ancient newspapers, catalogues, napkins and old household bills. Bags and bags went to recycling. Now his accountant can file his taxes, his stocks will be in a brokerage account, his bills will be on auto pay, his correspondence can be answered, and important mail will be addressed. In the process, we discovered there are two distant safe deposit boxes which we will try to close and consolidate the contents with his box here in New York.

If the process of simplification seems too complicated, a family member, friend, or hired professional may need to help.

October 2010 - FEATURE
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