Brad Rhodes: Cognitive decline and financial decisions

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 26, 2024

By Brad Rhodes

As we age, it is natural to experience some cognitive decline. This decline is a normal part of the aging process and may affect our ability to make sound financial decisions. Cognitive decline can impact our memory, judgment and reasoning, making it difficult to manage our finances effectively.

This can be a significant concern for older adults, who are often responsible for making critical financial decisions about their retirement, healthcare and investments. If you are concerned about the impact of cognitive decline on your financial decision-making, there are steps you can take to prepare.

How cognitive decline can impact financial decision-making.

There are several ways in which cognitive decline may impact financial decision-making. Some of the most common include:

  • Memory loss: Difficulty remembering important financial information, such as account numbers, passwords and due dates.
  • Judgment impairment: Difficulty making sound financial decisions, such as assessing risks and rewards or understanding complex financial products.
  • Reasoning impairment: Difficulty understanding financial concepts and calculations.

These cognitive impairments can make it challenging for older adults to manage their finances effectively. They may be more likely to make poor financial decisions, such as falling victim to scams, investing in risky products or overspending. They may also have difficulty paying bills on time and keeping track of their finances.

Preparing for the possibility of cognitive decline

There are a number of steps you can take to prepare for the possibility of cognitive decline and its impact on your financial decision-making. Some of the most important include:

  • Talk to your doctor: If you are concerned about cognitive decline, talk to your doctor. They can assess your cognitive function and recommend any necessary tests or treatments.
  • Get organized: Create a system for organizing your finances, such as using a filing system or budgeting software. This will help you track your accounts, bills and investments.
  • Simplify your finances: Reduce the number of financial accounts you have and consolidate your investments. This will make it easier to manage your finances as you get older.
  • Assign a power of attorney: A power of attorney is an official document that authorizes another individual to manage your financial affairs. This can be especially important if you become incapacitated and unable to make your own financial decisions.
  • Set up a trust: A trust is a legal framework wherein you can transfer the ownership of your assets to a trustee. The trustee then administers these assets for you, ensuring they are handled in line with your preferences, even in the event you are unable to manage them yourself.

Assigning a power of attorney

If you are considering assigning a power of attorney, choose someone trustworthy and capable of managing your finances. You should also understand the different types of power of attorney and the authority that you are granting.

Power of attorney can be categorized into two primary forms: general and limited. Under a general power of attorney, the designated agent receives extensive powers to handle your financial affairs. In contrast, a limited power of attorney confers narrowly defined powers to the agent, such as the capacity to sell your property or oversee your investments.

When assigning a power of attorney, you will specify the types of financial decisions that you are granting your agent the authority to make. You should also include any conditions or restrictions that you want to place on their authority.

Setting up a trust

When exploring the option of establishing a trust, it’s essential to seek legal advice tailored to your specific situation. Trusts come in various forms, each suited to different needs and circumstances.

A popular choice among older adults is the revocable living trust. This arrangement lets you transfer your assets into the trust while maintaining control over them during your lifetime. Additionally, you have the flexibility to dissolve the trust if you choose.

On the other hand, an irrevocable trust is a permanent arrangement. Once set up, it cannot be undone. These trusts are frequently utilized for asset protection from creditors and to meet eligibility requirements for Medicaid.

Protect your financial future

Cognitive decline can have a significant impact on financial decision-making. Prepare for the possibility of cognitive decline by taking steps such as getting organized, simplifying your finances, assigning a power of attorney, or setting up a trust.

By working with a financial advisor, you can gain peace of mind knowing that your finances are in good hands, even if you become incapacitated.

Schedule a consultation with a financial advisor today to learn more about how you can protect your financial future.

Key takeaways:

  • Cognitive decline can have a significant impact on financial decision-making.
  • There are steps you can take to prepare for the possibility of cognitive decline and its impact on your financial decision-making.
  • These steps include getting organized, simplifying your finances, and assigning a power of attorney or setting up a trust.

Brad Rhodes lives in Lexington and is a member of Syndicated Columnists.