Financial Advisors for Elders

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  • I am in my early 80's and even though in decent health I not know how much longer I will be around. Statistically I will predecease my wife and as such want to make it relatively easy for her to deal with all the necessary paperwork which will be required to rearrange our financial affairs after I am gone. We have a will and an attorney who will help her with the trust but there are many other issues which will need to be addressed such as Social Security benefits, changing title on accounts, notifying insurance companies, retirement accounts, etc. etc. It will most probably be a rather stressful time in the best of circumstances so I want to her to have a person or a team who she can rely on to guide and assist her with all the necessary matters. These are the reasons we are asking for some recommendations for financial planners or counselors who are experienced in dealing with the end of life situation. It would be best to be introduced to those who are in the East Bay (with Oakland-Berkeley preferred), reliable, easy to deal with and scrupulously honest. Many, many thanks for your knowledge and assistance. We are grateful.

    I highly recommend Karen Jaber, who is based in Mill Valley but travels all over the Bay Area to see clients, so you would never have to go to MV. She has helped both my almost 80-year old mom and my brother's mother-in-law, and we both liked her so much that we each worked with her ourselves as well. She's incredibly personable and patient, and has a lot of older clients. We have had excellent experiences with her. You can reach her at kjaber [at] or 415-968-4309.

    I don't have a recommendation for a financial planner but I have been helping out my mother, who is 90, with many of these issues you are bringing up.  My dad, who passed away 3 months ago at the age of 95, was pretty well organized and had many of his important papers filed together and told me where they were.   When it came time to deal with things I did not have to hunt and peck to find where papers were stashed away.  It will be a very stressful and difficult time for your wife if you go before her.  My mom has been very stressed out with dealing with the financial matters (as well as grieving) as my dad took care of everything, ie paying bills, property tax, etc.  And his name was on all the bills.  You don't mention whether you have children, but my sister and I have been taking on the task of dealing with these matters as our mom is pretty much clueless.  Also, I've been named as the Executor of their trust once my mom passes on so I knew eventually I would have to take on the responsibility.  My dad prepped me a few years ago about where his papers etc were and what I'd have to deal with, so I was not completely at a loss.  It's good and smart you are preparing for the time when it will happen. The surviving spouse will be dealing with the grief on top of all the financial matters that follow a death. 

    As far as Social Security goes, the mortuary will usually notify them.  Then Social Security will notify the surviving spouse and make the relevant changes to the benefits she will receive from here on out.    Also, the month that the person passes away, SS will take that month's benefit back.  SS will notify the bank that you have your SS benefit direct deposited into and request the money back from them.  There is a lot of busy work involved calling companies, utilities, etc.  to change the name on bills.  I bought the Nolo Press book,The Executor's Guide, which also gives some information on what the surviving spouse has to do.  I found it very helpful.  They also suggest you contact the DMV and report the death so no one steals that person's identity (we had to return his handicap placard too).  My dad's mortuary suggested my mom get 6 death certificates (which the mortuary will apply for).  Some places want an original, some places will accept a copy.  If you have a large life insurance policy, they will definitely want an original (and the DMV also asked for an original).  

    I am learning alot from this experience.  We had some time to prepare as my dad was in home hospice for 6 weeks before he died.  Though my husband and I have a trust, dealing with my dad's things makes me think about being more organized so it will make life easier for my husband or my children if I go first.  

    Rick Prime at Prime Wealth Management. The nicest person, and he truly has your interests at heart.

    I've been working with him for a year (we needed to get our affairs in order) and he's been excellent-- researching life insurance (I have a tricky inherited gene and doubted I was insurable) and showing us options, advising us on how best to maximize my child's 529. I can't say enough about him.

  • Thank you for reading. My mother is in her late 70's and is beginning to take on outside help to assist her in the care of my father who has advanced dementia. She cannot afford to put him into a facility that offers full time care, as they are the upwards of 10-15k/month. She currently lives on social security, some investments, 401k, as well as my father's pension. All of these monies have permitted them to live comfortably, but within reason. However, with the cost of in-home care, more and more money will have to be spent as my father will require help with the basics. I have been advised to help find an advisor for her to help her manage her finances when the care he requires becomes too much for her to do on her own.... which is not too far in the distant future.  I am hoping someone can refer a person-- lawyer, financial advisor- who can take a look at her financial portfolio and perhaps advise her how to best use her finances to help with his care-- I specifically want to make sure that my mother does not use up every cent she has taking care of my dad, leaving her with nothing when he passes. I know they have 'too much money' to qualify for medicaide from what I understand. But I think we could both use some advice as to how to manage all her finances as we grow deeper into needing more help to care for my father. I appreciate your time to read this and any suggestions you may have. --lesley

    Call Karen Jaber, 415-388-1523.  She's technically in Marin, but travels all over the bay area advising mostly elderly clients on these types of issues.  My brother & I used her for his mother-in-law and then our own mom, and liked her so much we used her ourselves.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Questions Related Pages

Financial planner to make mom's money last

Sep 2011

Can anyone recommend a great, not too expensive, financial planner to help a soon-to-be senior make a plan for her nest egg? My almost 60 year old mother is selling the family house to downsize. She has no retirement account and works part-time with no extra for savings, so the house is her retirement. We would like it to last for the next several decades (her mother is still going strong in her mid-80s, and her grandmother lived past 100). We would like someone experienced with working with independent senior women, who can help her make a budget and set realistic expectations about what she can afford long-term. She currently lives quite a bit above her means (with the help of various family members who are sick of being treated like bank accounts) and although she seems to know that this can't continue, she can't figure out how to adjust her lifestyle accordingly. Prefer someone near Walnut Creek or Berkeley, but will travel for the right person. Thanks! Need to make mom's money last

I highly recommend Daniel Jew of Edward Jones. He works with a number of women in that age group, has given me wonderful advice and support, and is great at communicating around sensitive and often confusing issues. He also helps his clients make really good and appropriate decisions. His office is on Grand Ave. in Oakland (490) and phone number is 663 0196. Well-protected

Greg Bernhardt in Clayton near Concord has made some extremely wise investments for my parents. My father recently passed away and Greg has kindly answered all my questions, concerns and has given me some very sound advice regarding their finances and he isn't even charging me for his help. My parents, now mom, receive a nice monthly income because Greg believes in conservative investing and set them up well. I highly recommend him. He is honest, patient and knows what is out there and will help steer you away from what is not good out there. anon

Elderly mom unable to manage finances- help!

July 2010

My father died recently and was the financial planner/investor in the family. My mother has been left with the good fortune of having more than enough funds for herself but is totally ignorant and unable to manage her money. She is naive and seems to think that my brother can manage the assets even though he has NO experience (and no money of his own). She is also extremely cheap and doesn't appear to want to hire professionals to do so. My brother has the unfortunate combination of naivete and arrogance about his ability to do so- not a good combination. I am not good at money management but at least I recognize this and want to get professionals involved. My mother is overwhelmed and because she is cheap, she is surrendering herself to my brother's offer to manage the assets (stock portfolio)- help! Any advice about how to approach my mother? Any recommendations for a good financial adviser? Please no self-solicitations! troubled and anxious about $

I'm financially sophisticated, but when my mom became incapable of handling her finances and I had to take over, I hired a ''fee-only'' financial planner to do a plan for her. It covered her projected expenses as well as suggesting an appropriate investment portfolio. The fee-only part is key, because otherwise you get somebody whose motivation is to sell you investments. I've interviewed a few and worked with two - by far the best one is Peggy Cabiness pcabaniss [at] My mom is cheap too, but also she was at the time in her life where she was trying to avoid new and confusing activities. I basically bullied her into agreeing. One argument I used was that having a professional plan protected me from being sued by siblings if the investments went bad. make her do it

I think you put far too much faith in financial advisers. Managing assets is not rocket science and no one can foretell the future. I am guessing that if your brother is reasonably intelligent, and willing to educate himself, he can do as well as 99% of financial advisers. In fact, he can probably do better than a financial adviser if he charges less than they do. The really clear thing is that your mom is frugal and doesn't want to pay to have her money managed. Since no problems have come up, why not honor her wishes? Why not learn about investments together? Get some magazine and books and read up on different ways to invest, discuss the possibilities, and make decisions together. That way you will all be less naive. If you all decide in the end to get an adviser, you will be more knowledgeable about what to look for. Sanon

I recently met with this woman and found her very helpful, straight forward and thoughtful. She's a senior herself which gave me more confidence that she understood my situation, questions and concerns. Her name is Mary Grodin, Grodin Financial Services, phone: 510. 357.3715, email: mgrodin [at] Her office is in San Leandro. Let me know if you have other questions about her services. LRW

When we were searching for a financial advisor for ourselves, one of the people I spoke with was Susan Gavrich, whose business is called Moneywell Financial Planning. They're in Alameda, and I recall she specializes in situations exactly like your mother's -- helping women dealing with new financial responsibilities, whether as a result of widowhood, divorce, etc. So she might be a very good fit for your mom, and really be able to communicate with her. I was very impressed with her, and think she'd really understand your mom's situation and needs for the future. If you go to, her contact information is there. She is focussed on people with a larger asset pool that we had (you mentioned your mom was well situated), which is why we didn't go with her ourselves. We use Sara Ellefsen of Golden Gate Financial Planning, in San Francisco, and really like her. She can be reached at (415) 344-0549. I'd definitely go with someone fee-based, rather than with someone affiliated with one of the big firms (EJones, Ameriprise) or otherwise on commission. It can be a big chunk up front, or as a percentage of assets, but can really pay off in the long run. Good luck to you, and I'm sorry for the loss of your dad. Anne

Straight off, let me tell you that I may not answer your question directly but perhaps some of my experiences may be helpful. Also, I am not an investment professional so take my advice with a grain of salt. Assuming that your mother is no longer generating any income other than social security (make sure to inquire about survivor's benefits for her from Social Security) and the income from her investments, it is rather important that you guys get her into investments that will not be subject to market volatility. Generally that means cash and fixed income. Now, the reality of the market is that the yields for these are pathetic but at least principal is protected. An area where yields are still good are municipal bonds which are debt issued by states and municipalities. Probably good to avoid very long durations (2 years) The only problem there is that, as you know from the news, a lot of municipalities are distressed. This will require some reading but that is not impossible. What is unrealistic is expecting that you will outperform the stock market. To think otherwise is to put your mother's welfare at risk. One final set of thoughts: make sure that your mother has a Power of Attorney in place for health care and an Advance Directive. Her doctor's office should have some boiler plate on this and you will not need an attorney. Make sure that she has a will in place at minimum, a trust if it makes sense to minimize her probate exposure. Finally, she should consider a general power of attorney so that her bills can get paid should she become incapacitated. Good luck. Been There

My financial advisor works very well with elderly people. She has knowledge and compassion. The fee is deducted from the investments so there is no out of pocket charge. I highly recommend Lan Shaw of Edward Jones. She can be reached at 704-8854 in Berkeley. Sydney

Hi there! Such a tough situation that we are seeing more and more of.... Please try Lan Shaw with Edward Jones. She has a warm, solution-oriented approach and can be reached by phone at 510-704-8854 (office) or by email: [at] Good luck! Stephanie Huie, Senior Helpers Berkeley Office

I have a simple solution for you, and I hope the fact that I have a background in wealth management lends credence to this don't necessarily need anything fancy, and kudos to your mom for being ''cheap''. Many investors suffer poor returns largely as a result of overpaying for advice, commissions, etc.

Use Vanguard. Vanguard is one of the largest and most respected fund companies, and most importantly, it is owned by its investors....this allows it to provide some of the least expensive mutual funds available. Vanguard focuses on very efficient, inexpensive index investments (i.e, just buying the whole market, bypassing expensive security-picking, which generally winds up underperforming the broad market anyway) but they have many excellent actively managed funds as well.

If I've already lost you...never fear. One of the most appealing options is simply to use one of Vanguard's ''All in One Funds''. These funds are each designed to be appropriate for a specific investor class; for example, your mom could use the ''Retirement'' portfolio...the most conservative. It includes about 65% in broad bond index investments, 30% in global stocks, and 5% in cash. And get this...expenses are 0.18% Yes, you read that right...less than one fifth of one percent! Compare that to an advisor who could easily charge you five times as much. The all in one fund automatically if stocks go up, for example, Vanguard trims them back and adds the proceeds to the bonds and cash...this ensures that you ''buy low, sell high'' without you having to do a thing. Your mom can literally buy this one fund, never make another investment decision the rest of her life, and be assured of outperforming the vast majority of all active funds, investment advisors, etc...mostly because of the ultra low fees.

As to your brother...that's another matter. Ideally he shouldn't touch the money of course, but perhaps as a concession to family harmony, if he throws a fit, your mom could give him 5% of her portfolio to manage, with clear instructions on her risk tolerance, etc. If he turns out to be the next Warren Buffett, well your mom can rethink things.

If you have further questions, I'd be happy to answer in an entirely un-self-promotional way. Good luck. h

Elderly mother needs help managing her finances

Nov 2009

My elder mother-in-law has recently expressed anxiety about managing her finances and is ready for some help in this area. I'm not sure exactly what kind of service would be best for her and would welcome advice in that area as well as recommendations of specific people. She has plenty of money that she and her husband put into a trust before he died a few years ago. Most of the money is in CDs and treasury bonds. Since he handled most of their finances, her knowledge about where things are seems a little shaky, and she has little knowledge about how things are doing. My husband has looked at some documents that indicate she is letting CDs expire and rollover without any real management. She is also concerned that there could be some accounts that may be sitting dormant, which we know can be a problem. She would like someone who can look at the trust, help inventory the assets, and perhaps provide some help in managing the assets. I'm not sure if that person would need to be an attorney (the one who did the trust has since retired) or just a financial management professional. My MIL is pleasant and cooperative but can be a little confused at times (ask the same question two different ways, and you're likely to get two different answers), so someone who patient and experienced dealing with seniors would be essential. She's a worrier, so alleviating her anxiety is a significant part of this equation. Thanks for your help. cindy

For help with your finances for your mother in law, she'll love DeYoe Wealth Management (510) 848-0012. They are so helpful, knowledgeable and they will be able to simplify and make it easy for your MIL. I've been with them for 5 years now and they will make you and your mother in law feel like family. Ask for either Jonathan DeYoe or John Madden. LL

I work with Lan Shaw of Edward Jones in Berkeley on Allston Way. She is extremely patient and goes out of her way to explain things. She has taken more time with me than I feel I deserve. I know that she also has a focus of working with elderly clients as she's told some stories about issues she's dealt with. Her number is 704 8854 and email is [at] A well-cared for investor

I'd like to recommend Julie Asti of Asti Financial Management. She is a fee-based advisor, and I'm extremely happy with the work she has done for me. She can look over your mother-in-law's financial situation, discuss the situation with her and with you, and help make recommendations to organize your MIL's accounts. You can email Julie (info [at] or phone her at 510-558-8557. David

To start, I recommend that you talk to Scott Durcanin at Charles Schwab in San Francisco: 415.667.6218. (He may have a counterpart at the Schwab office in Berkeley, but we have been very happy with Scott.) His advice is free and he can help you assess the situation and decide what level of management your mother-in-law needs, if any. There are various levels of service (some free, some not) available at Schwab (assuming she becomes a client) and he can also recommend a list of outside advisors that best suit her needs and style, including how hands-on she wants to be. Through Scott my husband and I interviewed several private managers (who keep their company accounts at Schwab) and put some assets at CSI Capital Management in SF. However, we did not want to put all of our assets under management, and Scott offers suggestions about the rest. I believe that with treasury bills and CDs, one of Schwab's own services would likely be sufficient, but Scott could best advise on that. He's also a nice guy. Susan of Berkeley

A basic starting question would be: do the assets need to be used now (to live on), later (retirement), or never (to pass on to heirs). If there is a need for an estate planning attorney or CPA, he has a number of people he generally works with who he knows and trusts.

I highly recommend that you talk with any advisor you are considering working with and ask a lot of questions about the recommendations you get - especially with the ''shaky knowledge'' of your MIL - to make sure she is not being taken advantage of.

Greg Guardiano at DA Financial in Lafayette is great with seniors, very patient and caring. His number is 925-254-7100. - anon

I can whole-heartedly recommend Samantha Dinh with Edward Jones in Montclair. She has many elderly clients and besides being extremely knowledgeable about money, she is warm, sympathetic, & understanding about the problems of aging & finances. My husband is in his 70s, was very fearful & resistant to change around money until I introduced him to Samantha. Her phone number is 339-1840, and I can assure you that you will be glad you got to know her. Laura

My mother saw a financial advisor but that person did not specialize in elders' issues; my brother is in charge... Long story. I suggest consulting w/ elder care attorney who can guide you w/o any financial benefit. Maybe there is some sort of professional accrediation for financial advisors who specialize in this area. So many people don't plan ahead for the ''rainy day.'' Where I work at the hospital, I have to tell their adult kids/spouses (usually) that THIS IS the rainy day. Hopefully, they've saved and have good social support.

You can call or write to California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform - or Family Caregiver Alliance - -for local referrals. As a geriatric specialist I know these two agencies to be premier in the area of referral and family caregiver/elder issues. Monica

Help for parents sorting out finances for long-term care

Feb 2009

My elderly parents live independently in Berkeley. They want to stay in their longtime home but it is becoming difficult. I am looking for a reasonably priced professional to help the family sort out their finances to see what they can afford in terms of in-home care or assisted living, whether we should refinance the mortgage or sell the house, and how to consolidate their investments, file taxes and plan for long-term care, estate planning, etc. It seems like a mix between a financial planner, an accountant and a lawyer familiar with real estate and estate planning matters. Is there such a person in the East Bay?

Ask Family Caregiver Alliance in San Francisco for information. I believe they can refer you to someone. You need an assessment of their needs as well as finances--a long-term strategy. phone: (415) 434.3388, (800) 445.8106 Lola

Aging mother falling victim to financial predators

August 2008

My 87-year old mother lives alone in what was the family home. She's generally competent and alert, though both her memory and her common sense are waivering. She did a very good job as money manager for the family, the result of which is that she now has a fair amount left over. She has increasingly been agreeing to sales presentations for mortgages, energy-efficient windows, ''lifetime'' exterior painting, etc. She thinks that she's doing this for the ''free stuff'' (she has 4 George Foreman grills stacked in a closet), but she is quite vulnerable to the cleverness of financial predators and their advance guard, telemarketers. Last year, she re-financed her house 3 times, forfeiting $60k in pre-payment penalties and closing costs and winding up with a 7.5% rate, when she's well qualified for much better. The situation is becoming alarming and we're beginning to think that we're going to have to do something proactively. We'd welcome thoughts on how to limit the damage she can do herself. For many reasons, we can't consider conservatorship. Thanks for your help. ''Do Not Call'' fan

I am a care manager for older adults (clients mostly in Marin). A few things come to mind. First, it sounds like your mom may be using the telemarketers as part of her social structure. I would look at programs and events (lectures) that would get her engaged. Second, can you change her phone number and get her bills forwarded to you? At the very least I would screen her mail if at all possible. Get your name on all of her accounts. Can you also get on the title of her house? That would slow people down. When is the last time she went to her doctor? Has she been diagnosed with memory loss? Does she listen to her doctor? Can you get him/her to help? I would be happy to brainstorm with you (no charge of course). You are not alone and there are a lot of creative ways to help. Helping in these situations is exactly why I picked this job! patty

There are CPAs who specialize in ''Eldercare''- check out they may have a referral database, that or the California Society of CPAs. From what I understand, they can serve as a financial intermediary- where your mom would still have her financial independence but also a 3rd party with integrity to bounce things off of. They can even handle all bill paying, etc. This could also be a good step towards shoring things up for her future years and/or estate planning. Not sure how amenable she'll be to the conversation, but check a couple of the CPAs out, see which one you think would be a good fit, and see what they recommend as an approach. Here are a couple of good articles:
Another suggestion is the scare tactic. You can express concern for her safety, or the approach that ''you worked so hard to save what you've saved, you don't want to lose it to a swindler- you deserve better'' Good luck! A CPA but not in this area!

Sounds like a serious matter. I have a friend whose father LOST the family home recently for similar reasons. He was taken for a ride and invested all his money to a swindler who told him not to tell his family because family members, he claimed, were only interested in their inheritance and not in investment of his money. Do you have other siblings who could support you in being more pro-active with your mom? Could you take away her phone use? Perhaps it's time to think about assisted care for her. My parents are 83 and they are in a progressive care situation already.

Many older people are vulnerable to solicitors of all sorts because they are lonely, and thus welcome the attention with its opportunity for conversation and company. How about getting her a live-in companion since it sounds like she could afford it? That could short-circuit some of her vulnerability, and one of the the companion's jobs could be to screen calls. Anon

My parents want to retire, need help making a plan

August 2005

My parents are getting ready to retire, and are trying to figure out exactly when to stop working, when to begin drawing down their state and private pension(s) and social security, how to diversify their stock holdings in their 401K, and what the tax implications for all that will be...... and they are asking me what to do and there is NO WAY I am going to try and guess at what would be right for them. So I am trying to help them find a financial planner. We are interested in a **FEE BASED** rather than commission based financial advisor that has the Certified Financial Planner designation, that really specializes in retirement planning, evaluating various pension options, social security issues, and tax implications, etc. Any ideas??? People to call?? Thanks in advance for your help!

Carmen Cheung with Mass Mutual Financial Group does the kind of financial planning that you are looking for. She specializes in working with retirement planning. I would recommend her, not based on personal experience with her work, but through knowing her and having confidence in her integrity. ccheung[at] or 415 743-1002 Melanie

I highly recommend you call Jarrett Topel in Oakland. He specializes in retirement planning, is a CFP, and was a tax preparer before that, so he is very knowledgeable in those areas. I believe his first meeting is free, and we were also looking for a fee based planner, which is how he works. His number is 510-655-4400. Good luck Anna