What help can your bank provide to financial caregivers?

I have a close friend whose parents both have late stage cancer. In short order, questions about caregivers and safe housing, and how to pay for it, landed in my friend’s lap. She and I spoke while she prepared to temporarily move to her parent’s small Iowa town so she could manage the logistics. Adding to the burden of her impending loss were questions about insurance, taxes and the ramifications of selling stock in December versus January.

I have been where she is (though not with both parents at once) so I could offer a few tips. I advised her to seek financial guidance first, because once the question of “How will we pay for this?” gets answered, it’s easier to settle on safe housing and locate a source for palliative care. “One of your first stops,” I told her, “should be your parents’ bank.” 

I was a bit troubled, therefore, when I stumbled upon a survey that revealed that 31 percent of financial caregivers said their bankers were indifferent to their needs, while 22 percent were disappointed with the support they received from their banks. 

Who hasn’t faced indifference from a bank at one time or another? And there is nothing worse when you present a problem to a banker and their response is to tell you why they cannot help. Perhaps some form is missing. Or a signature. Actually, what’s worse is encountering these obstacles or such indifference in the face of losing a loved one.

It’s not news to report that the population of the aged is growing. That means the population of caregivers is growing too. Today, 13 percent of adults older than 25 — a total of 29 million people — provide care for an aging family member or someone with a disability, a mental health issue, or addiction. True Link Financial reports that people who are caring for the aged are 27 percent more likely to be affluent (with net worth greater than $250k). Relative to non-caregivers, people who care for an aging parent are 68 percent more likely to have a mortgage, 94 percent more likely to have an investment account, and 93 percent more likely to have life insurance. And, 75 percent of caregivers are the main financial decision makers in their own households. These are people you want to know — and help.

The same survey referenced above showed that banks that did a very good job of helping a financial caregiver solve a problem produced a 75 percent likelihood that they’d do business with that bank again. Solving a problem for someone who is taking on the added burden of caring for another person opens the door to a new, powerful relationship. What bank wouldn’t find value in that? What caregiver wouldn’t remember and appreciate the guidance offered during one of life’s greatest stresses? You’re already good at relationships. Individuals navigating a caregiving challenge, as fraught a period in life that exists, will appreciate anything you can do to ease the burden.