Arjun's story: Supporting Mum living abroad to manage her money

Mum copes really well with organising her regular, small bills such as paying for groceries, but she baulks at buying any big ticket items and finds managing multiple accounts too complicated. And Mum’s far too trusting.

*Identities have been changed to protect privacy

   
  
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   Arjun’s family is scattered across the globe. He lives in the UK, his sisters in Australia and his 71-year old Mum in India.    
  
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   Not only does he have to coordinate decisions across multiple time zones, but he and his siblings have young families of their own and time for their Mum can be limited.

Arjun’s family is scattered across the globe. He lives in the UK, his sisters in Australia and his 71-year old Mum in India. Not only does he have to coordinate decisions across multiple time zones, but he and his siblings have young families of their own and time for their Mum can be limited.

Dad was an accountant and forward planner, and he set up all the family finances to make things simple. Mum could enjoy being the homemaker and not worry. But he passed away nine years ago and she’s never really got to grips with anything more complicated than a weekly budget. Bills or income that appear quarterly or annually just throw her.

Not knowing the frequency and total of her regular income is Mum’s biggest problem, as she can’t budget effectively or be confident that her outgoings will be covered. But she remains convinced that managing her finances will always be too complicated and despite several hours on the phone trying to persuade her otherwise, she digs her heels in.

What makes Mum’s reluctance to get involved really dangerous is her trusting nature. She handed a blank cheque to ‘the nice lady at the bank’ and asked her to fill it in so her accounts could be settled. I was appalled and had to really drive home the message that she must never hand over a blank cheque to anyone, however trustworthy they might appear. 

Arjun's Mum
Being able to see all Mum’s accounts in one place would be a very handy organiser, especially if a summary could be read by the family living in all the different time zones

I used to micromanage her finances and even go to India for a few weeks every year to settle her affairs, sometimes paying annual fees upfront. It took a big chunk of my time and I eventually set up a spreadsheet so I can keep track of Mum’s balances and alert her to any impending payments from the UK.

This has helped lessen her dependence on me. I can still support her going on her own to make the less frequent payments scheduled a few times a year, as I remind her that I’m always on the end of the phone if she gets confused in the bank and needs help. And she is capable when encouraged.

She definitely wants to have her financial independence too, after always needing to ask my Dad for money, and she doesn’t want me to see what she’s buying. I have said I’m not interested in what she buys, but I do want to make sure she has enough money to cover expenses, especially as it’s illegal to write bouncing cheques in India.

I also want Mum to be independent and she needs to know I can’t always physically be there to help her. But her independence has to be balanced with making sure I protect her from accidentally missing payments and people who might want to take advantage of her.

Being able to see all Mum’s accounts in one place would be a very handy organiser, especially if a summary could be read by the family living in all the different time zones. Supervising her financial affairs could be made much smoother and rotated between me and my sisters, saving a lot of time and effort, while protecting Mum from trouble. §