Supporting older Australians
Helping family and friends with
their money decisions
5 WAYS YOU CAN HELP:
1. Start a MoneySmart
Many people don't like to talk about money, or admit if they're
struggling with their finances. In particular, older people might
worry about losing their independence, or fear they'll become a
burden if they need help to make financial decisions. But, if
someone you care about needs help, you should start the
conversation now. The longer you put it off, the more difficult it
will be - especially if they become ill.
When it comes to discussing someone else's finances, it's
important to remain unbiased and non-judgmental. Here are some
- Keep it relevant: Only ask for the information
you need to know in order to work out how to help them. Avoid
prying into irrelevant personal details. This is especially
important if you are not family.
- Encourage open discussion: Ask them about
their plans for the future, and any concerns they might have. For
example, they might worry that they will not be able to afford aged
care. This will help you work out where to start looking for the
information they need.
- Share your own concerns: Explain why it's
important to have this conversation with them. For example, you
could explain that, if their health deteriorated or anything
happened to them, someone would have to make decisions on their
behalf. Without pressuring them to nominate anyone in particular,
you could suggest they think about who they would want to make
medical or financial decisions for them, if they could not do it
2. Get organised
An important step towards supporting your relative or friend to
make good financial decisions is to get a clear picture of where
they stand right now. This involves working out what assets and
liabilities they have, and where their legal and financial
Here are some things you can suggest they do:
- Take stock of their current financial
position: Use our net worth calculator to help
work out the total value of their assets and debts. This will give
your loved one a clear understanding of their current financial
- List their important documents: Suggest that
they make a list of their important documents,
including their birth and marriage certificate, will, enduring
power of attorney, advance healthcare directive, house deeds and
bank account details.
- Store important documents securely: Encourage
them to keep these documents in a secure location - either in a
locked filing cabinet or a secure data file. Only the person they
nominate to manage their estate should have access to these
3. Plan for the future
No-one wants to think about the prospect of dying, or a time
when they can no longer make decisions for themselves. But, if the
person you care about dies without a valid will, or if they lose
the capacity to manage their own affairs without appointing someone
to do this for them, decisions might be made on their behalf that
they would not have wanted.
Ensure they have a current will
If the person you are supporting does not have a will, they
should arrange to get one. A will sets out what they want to happen
to their assets - such as money, property and jewellery - when they
die. It can also set out instructions for their funeral.
If they have a will, but it hasn't been updated in a while,
encourage them to take another look at it. They may need to update
it if there have been any major changes in their life, such as the
death of their partner or any beneficiaries, new children or
grandchildren, or if they have purchased or sold any property.
Our wills and powers of
attorney webpage has information on how to prepare a will.
Appoint a power of attorney
By appointing someone to be their power of attorney, your loved
one will be giving that person the legal authority to look after
The states and territories differ in terms of what a power of
attorney can do, so it's best to check with your local Public
Trustee. However, the three main types of powers of attorney
- General power of attorney: You appoint someone
to make financial and legal decisions for you, usually for a
specified period of time - for example, if you're overseas and
unable to manage your legal affairs at home. This power becomes
invalid if you lose the capacity to make decisions for
- Enduring power of attorney: You appoint a
person to make financial and legal decisions for you if you lose
the capacity to make your own decisions.
- Medical power of attorney: This person can
make only medical decisions on your behalf if you become unable to
do so yourself.
Encourage your relative or friend to think carefully about who
is the right person (or people, as they can appoint more than one)
to be their power of attorney. They need to be trustworthy,
reliable, able to act in your loved one's best interests, and have
the skills to manage their finances.
To ensure that everyone knows and understands their wishes, it
might be best for your loved one to discuss their decision with
their family. This will also help avoid surprises and disputes
4. Consider getting
Financial advice can help clarify financial goals and create a
plan to achieve them. Different types of financial advice options
are available to suit different personal circumstances. There are
many things to consider when choosing and working with a financial
Navigate the financial advice process with confidence.
Financial advice toolkit
Free money seminars
The Department of Human Services' Financial Information Service
(FIS) offers free money seminars all over Australia on a variety of
topics, including: Understanding retirement income streams,
Planning for residential care, Estate planning for older
Australians, and Understanding your pension.
FIS officers can also give information over the phone or at
Find out more at the
Department of Human Services' website.
5. Find additional help
Above all, remember that there are lots of free resources
available to help you navigate the issues that affect senior
Australians. Be sure to make use of their services - there's no
need to do it all yourself.
General seniors support
Our elder care and seniors
support webpage has a list of national, state and territory
organisations that can help seniors and their families deal with a
wide range of issues that affect older people.
Encourage your friend or family member to talk to a financial
counsellor if they have money worries. Financial counselling is
free, confidential and independent.
You can contact a financial counsellor by calling the National
Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007 between 9.30am and 4.00pm, Monday to
Friday; or by visiting the National Debt Helpline
You could also use our financial counsellor map to
find a counsellor near you.
Free legal advice
If your friend or relative is in debt and cannot afford a
solicitor, they can contact a community legal centre or Legal Aid
agency in their state or territory for free legal advice. You will
find a list of these, and contact details, on our free legal
Use ASIC's MoneySmart information, tools and
resources to help seniors make better financial decisions for their
Last updated: 25 Oct 2018