Senior Finances Easier With Internet

Sep 25th, 2010 | By | Category: Senior Finances

During a visit with an elderly relative this week, one of SCJ’s editors learned the relative had bounced a number of checks on a banking account that had been closed for some time.  She was unaware she was using a checkbook on a closed account.  Another elderly relative sent her quarterly estimated tax form to the IRS with a check that had not been filled out… it was blank.  And yet another elderly relative complains regularly about all the trouble and time it takes to write out checks to pay bills; he’s constantly afraid he will make a mistake and incur finance charges or overdraft charges or late fees.

There are other options for all of these issues many senior citizens experience.  If you are reading this article, you have a computer.  And if you know how to find, you can learn to find your

banking institution, if you haven’t already done so.  Here are some suggestions SCJ has to offer seniors who want to spend less time, effort and agony paying monthly bills and instead, use that time for more productive activity.

  • most big Wall Street banks, as well as small locally-owned banks, offer online banking and online bill pay; go online to find your bank or call your local office to determine that your bank indeed offers these services;
  • be sure to ask questions most of us have about the security of our account(s) and what happens if the account is compromised as a result of online banking; banks have policies about these potential problems and you need to be assured that your money is safe;
  • enroll in online banking and online bill pay through the Internet or by going in to your local office and having a customer service representative assist you; banks are very happy to help their customers with issues like this;
  • once enrolled in online banking and bill pay, set up your bill pay accounts to automatically pay your bills on a specified day, for a specified amount, each month; don’t worry about the bills that have a different amount owed each month; we’ll deal with that in the next paragraph below; again, if you have difficulty doing this online, go in to your bank (or ask a trusted friend or relative) and seek assistance getting your bills set up for automatic payment;
  • once these bills are set up for payment, the bank will automatically send (by wire or by printed check) payment every month on the day you indicate, for the amount you indicate; the bank assumes responsibility if they don’t do what they say they will do; you can be assured all the bills you enter for automatic payment will be paid;

But what about the bills that have a different amount each month, like utilities (water, gas, electricity)?  Most utility companies offer an automatic draft option for bill payment.  You give permission for the utility to draft your checking account for the amount they indicate you owe for a given month; they communicate with your bank, tell the bank how much you owe, and the bank automatically pays the utility company that amount on the day you and the utility company agree it will be paid.  You still get either a paper statement or an online statement, telling you how much the utility will be drafting your account.  You sign an agreement with the utility company that defines their responsiblity to safeguard your account information, and that gives them permission for the automatic draft. 

With both of these options, you can still monitor bill paying without having to go to the hassle and time of actually writing out checks.  You will still have statements to review, and you can always check to be sure the correct amount has been paid.  The relief is in not having to write out checks, not having to watch to be sure checks are written on time, and not having to be concerned about cognitive lapses affecting your financial picture.  We all experience those lapses as we age, but they don’t have to create either temporary or permanent calamity. 

Your bills get paid whether you’re at home monitoring them, or on a cruise in the Mediterranean.  We seniors need to be able to take advantage of new and different services that don’t depend on our minds functioning at 100% all the time, and that allow us much-earned freedom.

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