The Life Transition Blog

Life is Complicated!

It seems that our world becomes increasingly complex with each passing day. Whether it is deciphering a form to request that medical records be sent to a new specialist or determining whether to accept the insurance on a rental car, we find ourselves confronted with decisions at every turn. As a daily money manager I routinely find myself assisting clients with making these types of decisions or executing similar tasks.

Just the other day, I was working with a favorite client. She is a very bright former business owner and author. Now in her eighties, this lady is still very active. In fact, she is currently planning a cross-country summer adventure. Despite her education and years of life experience, she sometimes needs a little help with the business of life. In fact, as we were working together, she said, “You know, a good topic for your next article is why older adults lack confidence when doing everyday paperwork and taking care of their personal business.” Thanks for the article idea!

My client is right when it comes to the “diagnosis.” She, like so many others with whom I work, can usually figure out how to fill out the form or who to call to get the answer to their question about the duplicate charge on the credit card, but lack the confidence in themselves to do it and ask me to reassure them that they are on the right track. Why is this? In some cases, perhaps the client has a bit of difficulty with vision or hearing. This might lead him to uncertainty regarding whether he can read the fine print or understand the customer service representative on the other end of the phone. Alternatively, the client may be asked questions that she isn’t sure how to answer or feel intimidated by the lingo being thrown around by the impatient representative on the other end of the phone or how to navigate on a vendor’s website. And sometimes, the process being undertaken or the question being answered never made sense in the first place or is wrapped in confusing language!

So what to do? If you find yourself dreading taking care of the pile of mail on your kitchen counter you’re not alone. First, take care of the easy matters. Pay the bills that are correct so that you avoid late payment penalties. Make the phone calls to handle the items where you feel confident. Then, use sticky notes on each of the items where you need clarification or to take an action to remind yourself what it is you need to do and the date by which it needs to be done. Tackle one thing each day until you address them all. Or, consider asking someone to sit with you while you work through these items. This might be a family member, a friend, or a daily money manager. Often, just talking through your question with someone else will help to clarify your confusion and this in turn will give you the confidence to get on the phone or computer to take care of the matter. Sometimes you might prefer to have the second person do the talking while you sit nearby and listen on a speakerphone or work on the computer while you look over her shoulder.

If I had a penny for every time a client has said that “things used to be so much simpler” I’d be rich! They’re right. Our world moves fast and changes daily. Proliferating technology and the resulting change in how we conduct commerce and transact with one another is difficult for all of us to keep up with. Take into account the normal decline in vision, hearing, dexterity and memory that occurs with age and it’s no wonder that so many older adults lack confidence.
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