FORUM: What’s a financial concierge?
Jill: We pay bills for people who can’t, don’t, or shouldn’t. An example would be a senior who has developed arthritis and is having great difficulty writing and paying bills, and isn’t tech savvy. So we thought if we can help seniors stay independent financially, then they can also stay in their own homes longer with the supports and services around them.
FORUM: How are you paid?
Jill: We charge $150 an hour. We may spend two or three hours to find out what all the bills are, what we can automate, how to figure out what we need to do, and get it set up. After that, maybe it’s an hour in a month to visit with the individual and review what’s happened during the past month. Sometimes, family members of a senior — particularly if they live far away — quite like the fact that there’s a second set of eyes on everything. A really surprising thing that has come up is that the majority of the individuals we work with have been financially abused in the past.
FORUM: How do people know they can trust you?
Jill: We do complete background checks of our concierges, including a vulnerable sector screening. We look for good-to-excellent credit scores, and they must abide by the American Association of Daily Money Managers code of ethics. The first time we meet with clients, I ask them to have a friend or a family member or someone else there for the interview. If they don’t, I’ll ask them, “Have you talked to your sister or your child? Do they know that we’re working together?” Because I really encourage that and I would like them to be part of the conversation. If I’m doing an actual ongoing bill payment, then I always try to find someone else that I can provide a report to on a monthly basis. We always have a trusted contact person on file. When you’re dealing with older populations, cognitive changes are going to occur. So the way I frame this fact is: “If for some reason I can’t get a hold of you, or I have concerns about your well-being, whom can I talk to?”
FORUM: Why is this work important?
Jill: We did focus groups with caregivers who work with seniors and one need that came up was assistance with bill payments and someone to help them to get their important documents organized. This was particularly important when somebody had been widowed suddenly or lost a partner to one of the three Ds: death, dementia, or divorce. Most couples — it doesn’t matter what generation — are quite role specific in that one person manages the finances; everything from the investing to the insurance to the bill payments. And the other person is responsible for other areas of their lives. When the person who has been doing the financial management is gone, the surviving spouse doesn’t know where to start. And there often isn’t a family member or someone else around to do it.