Have You Hugged Your CPA Today?
More than sixty-five million Americans are serving as volunteer caregivers for vulnerable loved ones – and as baby-boomers step into senior status, that number will rise. Caregiving for someone with a disability, lengthy illness or aging issues is challenging enough, but adding money concerns to the mix can create a massive strain on individuals and families. Caregivers find themselves thrust into roles they are poorly suited to maintain. Juggling medical, relationship and job-related matters can often pale in the face of the financial pressures of caring for someone who is chronically ill or disabled.
The key is sustainability – and in order to manage the massive bills, extra costs and nuances of the tax code, I have found that I require the help of a trained professional, specifically a CPA.
I will not presume to tell anyone, particularly caregivers, how to manage their money. I can, however, offer a few tips that changed the way I view money, helped me keep a superior credit rating and avoid bankruptcy while dealing with the massive medical bills we incurred. I developed a simple 1-2-30 system. For example, when taking care of my physical health, I get:
- 1 Annual Flu Shot
- 2 Well Visits With an internist/family physician (including a physical)
- 30 minutes per day (average) of some kind of physical activity
That same 1-2-30 system also has an easy component for dealing with money.
1 Charity to Financially Support
Over the years, I discovered that thinking about someone else’s struggles and challenges helped put mine in perspective. Even though my wife and I founded a non-profit ourselves, we give to others that are totally unrelated to what we do at Standing With Hope, and also have nothing to do with the caregiving or disability issue my family faces. We found that by focusing on issues other than our own, it allowed us to “get outside ourselves,” if only for a brief moment. Regardless of how small the amount, contributing to the betterment of others changes perspective and expands the heart of an individual. Be sure to keep all charitable donation receipts and give them to your CPA.
2 Meetings Per Year With a CPA (Minimum)
The financial matters caregivers deal with are daunting on a good day and insane on a bad one. One person carrying all of the financial burdens of caregiving – while caring for someone else medically and physically – is just too much and errors are inevitable. Having a second (or third) set of eyes helps bring organization and peace of mind. A good CPA is a great ally. For non-caregivers, if you see a caregiver who is struggling, try to avoid platitudes like, “You’re in our hearts and prayers.” Instead, try asking them, “Do you have a CPA you regularly see?”
That simple question reframes the problem while directing the caregiver toward a healthier financial path, and can circumvent a slew of problems. Introducing the thought of someone connected to quality and affordable financial advice can help them manage bills, stay current on taxes, learn to operate within a budget and take advantage of tax-deductible expenses incurred in most caregiving scenarios.
When dealing with a long-term medical issue, keeping up with medical bills and receipts is critical, and operating within a budget is paramount. (Why can’t we send more CPAs to Washington D.C. instead of lawyers, by the way?) At the end of weary days, it is comforting to know that a trained, objective pair of eyes is helping keep finances in order.
$30 Per Paycheck Into Savings
Caregiving often means living paycheck to paycheck – on a good week. Financially treading water for as long as caregiving requires can cause even the stoutest checkbooks to grow weary, and getting ahead sometimes seems out of the question. Putting something in a savings account (or a Health Savings Account) can sound like it asks too much while drowning in bills. Squirreling away even a little bit, however, goes a long way towards a better night’s sleep.
Anyone can implement these 1-2-30 steps today, and immediately generate positive benefits to any situation. These simple ideas can ease the craziness and stress in a caregiver’s life – and they represent a few of the reasons why you should “hug your CPA today!”
Peter W. Rosenberger, President, Standing With Hope. Peter operates a non-profit prosthetic limb outreach program to amputees overseas. Standing With Hope recently launched an outreach to caregivers that draws upon Peter’s vast experience as a caregiver for his wife, Gracie, for 27 years through her now 78 operations, multiple amputations, 60+ doctors, 12 hospitals, 7 insurance companies and $9 million in medical costs. He hosts a weekly radio show on Nashville’s 1510 WLAC for caregivers.
Young CPAs image via Shutterstock