Checklist to help older couple in CA with financial decisions?
August 2, 2022 1:47 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for a checklist or guide to help an older couple (relatives of mine) make basic but crucial financial decisions.

This couple lives in California and owns a small business there. One of them (A) is experiencing some cognitive decline, and the other (B) is trying to figure out how much longer they can keep their business afloat--and how much longer they *have* to keep their business afloat, as they have basically no savings. B wants some support in figuring out whether / when / how to shutter their business, and I want to be able to help them with those decisions, though I have very little financial / elder care knowledge myself.

These people are in their 80s and have been working 7 days a week with no break for over 30 years. I have always taken them at their word that they’ve needed to work that much to stay afloat, but I’d like to get a better understanding of what that means, and whether it’s necessary or even feasible. Because of various health issues, they’re probably within a few years of a major medical event forcing them to stop this type of work anyway. Would love to help them get in front of that if I can.

I know some appropriate steps would be: bring them to a financial planner and maybe an elder care specialist. But I am out of state, and to even figure out what sort of help they’d most benefit from, I’d love to find a guide we could go through together. A and B both are proud, mistrusting, and indirect at the best of times, and they tend to be unrealistic and irresponsible in the face of crisis. When other relatives and I have asked about their finances, we've never gotten anything like a clear picture—I’m hoping to maximize this this rare moment when they’ve asked for some help, and I feel like having a basic checklist would help with that.

When looking online for elderly/retirement financial planning, most of what I find is about long-term investment strategies, which is emphatically not where they’re at. I believe they’re close enough to crisis, foreclosure, and homelessness that a sunny site with the terms “nest egg” or “tee time” won’t be so useful.

Would love specific online or published checklist-type resources rather than general advice here—Calfornia-specific would be especially useful. Thank you.
posted by BespokePuppet to Work & Money (9 answers total)
You might find something useful over at the Consumer Financial Protections Bureau.
posted by crunchy potato at 1:52 PM on August 2, 2022

Best answer: it sounds like someone needs to look at the business financials - particular a cash flow statement and also the profit & loss statement to understand if the business is making a profit (or more likely is it able to break even after they take out what they have been paying themselves) and if they have the cash flow to keep paying their bills. This isn't a checklist kind of question - it needs someone who knows at least a little bit about accounting. If they have a bookkeeper, that person should know this (the P&L is input to the tax statements) or be able to pull together the numbers.

If they are in the US, they might be able to get help from a volunteer at SCORE who are retired business executives.
posted by metahawk at 2:00 PM on August 2, 2022 [2 favorites]

Also here is a link from SCORE on how to exit a business.
posted by metahawk at 2:02 PM on August 2, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Their county Area Agency on Aging might be able to provide local referrals.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 2:04 PM on August 2, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Can the business be sold?
posted by Iris Gambol at 5:47 PM on August 2, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: AARP has a financial planning 50+ resource with a checklist and various worksheets to help you figure out their current financial situation.

California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform has an elder lawyer referral service that will do a free 10-15 minute interview to help figure out who they should talk to next. CANHR have a lot of long term care planning tools in general, not just regarding nursing homes. There may be other local legal aid programs for seniors, too, depending on where they live. If you want to MeMail me their county I can see whether there's a more local option.
posted by assenav at 6:45 PM on August 2, 2022 [2 favorites]

Their primary care doc should be a gerontologist if they haven't done that already; especially the one experiencing decline.

Seconding that it's important to know if it's the kind of business that can be readily sold -- if so, that's likely their best option. You'd need to help them get it valuated -- as a part of understanding their financial situation, but also for transactional purposes.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:54 PM on August 2, 2022

Great advice above. One thing I'd mention is that it's possible that these people may have more saved up then you (or even they) realize.

I had relatives around that age who would never stop working and went to great lengths to get free or very cheap food. They hated spending money and if they found a nickle on the sidewalk, it was the best day ever. Take a taxi to get somewhere, even if it was paid for by someone else? Not a chance! They were never forthcoming with any information about their situation, and it was always awkward.

So I reasonably assumed they were close to broke and embarrassed about it. However, a circumstance came up where they needed to share their financial information with me. Lots of papers, etc, but it turned out that they had LOTS of money.

They were born at a time when the Great Depression affected their lives a lot when they were growing up, and the message they got from it was to always save, never spend, because you never know when the rug is going to get pulled out from under you.

So I strongly suggest, that you approach them being happy to respond to their request for your help, if (and only if) they share financial documents with you, by which I mean bank accounts, CDs picked up over the years, tax returns, everything. Because you can't do the things they need you to do without such access.

It may be that you're entirely correct and their situation is dire and anxiety - provoking. But I wouldn't assume that unless and until you get to examine the paperwork.
posted by jasper411 at 9:06 PM on August 2, 2022

Just learned about SCORE the other day--it is a nonprofit that gives free advice and mentorship to small businesses. If there's a local chapter, maybe they can help with some of the business questions.
posted by assenav at 8:49 AM on August 4, 2022

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