Carer's guide to managing someone else's money
As carers, we may find ourselves spending money on their behalf or managing their money.
From stepping in with routine bills paying for a parent, or making big financial decisions for our child or dependent.
Whatever our situation, money can be an overwhelming subject - thinking about someone’s best interests and keeping on top of the extra life admin it creates.
Sadly, relationships can fall out due to money too.
So what tips can help us to manage money wisely, while keeping the peace and protecting our own energy? We’ve put together a comprehensive guide covering:
Common challenges when looking after someone else's money
Being in charge of someone else’s finances generally involves making decisions about money for the person we care for, or spending on their behalf. But the specific tasks and level of involvement can vary. It’s no doubt a big responsibility.
If this is new to us, it’s helpful to have a heads-up on some of the practical and emotional challenges we may face.
Practical challenges when managing someone else’s money:
Managing their bank accounts, savings and investments
Buying groceries, cleaning products or personal care items on behalf of the person we care for, and keeping track of everything
Managing another household’s bills
Buying and selling property and assets on their behalf
Claiming and spending welfare benefits on their behalf
Staying on top of all the admin - receipts, expenses, benefits and pensions
Working out how best to split costs, particularly if we live together
Deciding who has access to their money
Broaching conversations about legal powers
Applying for Lasting Power of Attorney
Applying for a deputyship or proving incapacity
Making decisions about their day-to-day spending
Emotional challenges when managing someone else’s money:
Managing money on behalf of the person we support, is different from looking after our own finances and there are likely to be emotional challenges too, such as:
Family disagreements over where money is best spent
Difficult decisions to make about buying what someone wants, even if it’s not good for them (e.g. alcohol or cigarettes)
Disagreements about how much to spend on goods
Different expectations and values around money
Disparities in wealth between family members
Negative feelings about picking up someone else’s costs
Disputes between family members, over the mental capacity of the person we care for
Feeling like we have too much on our plate already
Coming to terms with a diagnosis, whilst taking all of this on
Dealing with finances can be stressful and challenging - especially if we lack expertise in certain areas. Money might not naturally be our strong point.
Taking small steps to face our money situation head-on can help to take some of the stress off our shoulders. From here, we can build habits and routines to help us manage money, giving ourselves space and time to breathe.
“I’ve felt so overwhelmed staying on top of receipts and service invoices. I don’t know where to start. Thankfully our social worker has taken away all of my questions and is finding out the answers for me, so I don’t have to keep chasing.”
Practical tips for managing someone else’s money
Budgeting and planning can be daunting tasks. But with a little creativity and planning, we can make the process clearer, simpler to manage.
There are lots of apps and tools on our phones or tablets that can help make these processes less overwhelming. Even if we don’t love doing the admin, it can feel like an almighty relief to finally have it under control.
Here are seven practical tips we can try:
1. Make a plan/budget for their monthly costs
If we’re looking after someone else’s money, it can be useful to write a breakdown of their monthly costs. This way, we can show the person how and where we’re spending their money. Being open and transparent about where the money is going helps to build clarity and trust.
This document can also act as a checklist for us so we can track what we need to buy and pay for each month. There are lots of digital apps that can help too.
2. Establish a cost split if you’re living together
If we’re living with the person we care for, it's important to establish a fair and transparent cost system that suits everyone. This may be different, depending on our relationship with the person we care for. If we’re caring for our partner, this will probably look and feel different to caring for a parent or adult child.
As their carer, we’re not legally obliged to cover any of their costs. But we may feel we want to help out with their living expenses.
In these situations, the most suitable approach to cost splitting will vary depending on the dynamics in our household. But, having conversations and getting a plan in place can stop costs from getting muddled or spiraling out of control.
It can also help us to avoid any resentment that may build over time. Find out more about asking the person you care for to contribute to costs.
3. Use a receipt book
If we’re not a fan of online tools or digital banking, we could use an old-fashioned receipt book to keep on top of expenses. This can also be useful for transparency about what has been spent and when.
“Buy a receipt book and write the date, items bought and total amount. You keep one copy and provide them with the other copy.”
4. Be open - have ‘the money chat’
Having conversations about money isn’t always comfortable. But being open with others can help to avoid misunderstandings. Managing someone else’s finances requires a great deal of trust. So we’ll need to approach the topic with respect for the person we care for’s concerns and wishes.
Establishing an open-book policy can also help us to manage money as a team with the wider caring circle, preventing any suspicions or accusations. Our guide to having difficult conversations has some thought-starters for fostering a healthy and open dialogue.
5. Take ownership
It’s easy to bury our heads in the sand when it comes to money. Or feel resentful at all the extra work we’re now responsible for.
💡 Top tip: If we’re struggling to keep on top of the admin, could we ask a friend or family member to help us set up budgets and systems so it’s easy to stay on track? If we’re able to, we should lean on the strengths of other people in our caring circle.
“I absolutely hate anything finance related. I get very stressed and rather resentful to be honest. One thing that has helped is ‘accepting it’ as part of the ‘job’ and blocking time out in my diary. I then tackle it like any other caring-related job such as all the washing! It still takes time, but I feel more at peace with it. Plus giving it some time in my diary every week, helps me to stay on top - well, almost… I also treat myself to tea and cake while I’m knee-deep in numbers - it softens the blow”
6. Speak to the Citizens Advice Bureau
If we have a specific question about managing someone’s debt, pension or assets, the Citizens Advice Bureau can help. Their free and impartial service offers guidance on various topics, including financial matters, helping us to understand our rights and responsibilities.
You can find your local branch on the Citizens Advice Bureau website or speak to an advisor over the phone on 0800 144 8848 (England) or 0800 702 2020 (Wales). The advice line is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm.
7. Make the most of digital products to help with budgeting and keeping money safe
Products and tips for helping to keep money safe
It can be very upsetting if the person we care for is the victim of a scam or fraud.
There are more and more products becoming available that can help us keep their money safe.
Here are some ideas and products that other carers are using:
1. Third-party mandates
If the person we care for is in the early stages of a degenerative disease like dementia, adding ourselves to their bank account means we can pay bills and withdraw money on their behalf.
This is called a third-party mandate - a legal authorisation given by an account holder to allow another individual to access and manage their bank account on their behalf. This enables us to make payments, transfer money or set up direct debits for bills.
Many carers in the Mobilise Community say that it’s important to set up these arrangements in advance. It’s more challenging to gain decision-making financial powers if the account holder is no longer able to understand or sign legal documents.
Having access to their accounts also means we can check that they’re not being financially exploited - which is unfortunately a risk in this day and age.
How to set up a third-party mandate:
To set up a third-party mandate, the person we care for must fill out the necessary paperwork provided by the bank. The bank may require specific documentation, such as a lasting power of attorney or a letter of authorisation, to ensure that the arrangement is valid and legally binding.
Banks usually have their own requirements regarding third-party mandates, so we should get in contact to understand their guidelines.
If the person we care for is unable to understand and give consent for this, we may want to consider something called deputyship.
We might also want to consider being open and transparent with other family members, to hopefully avoid later concerns or conflict.
2. Online banking
Many banks offer an online banking service (via an app) that allows us to oversee and manage multiple accounts. As long as we have the person’s authorisation, we can oversee their spending and transactions while on-the-go, and pay bills on their behalf.
It’s worth speaking to the bank to see if they offer online banking and bill payments for multiple accounts.
3. Budgeting apps
There are lots of budget apps and tools at our disposal.
One app some carers are using is Emma for digital budgeting. With permission, this smartphone app automatically categorises transactions so we can effectively manage their budget and get an overview of spending habits.
Emma uses open banking to connect all of our accounts together, using bank-grade encryption to keep data secure and safe.
The company is FCA and ICO registered, so is generally regarded as safe - but it’s always wise to do our own research when it comes to financial apps.
4. Google Sheets and Excel
For those of us that prefer a more straightforward budget online planner, Google Sheets and Excel have lots of free budget planner templates. These are computer programs that help us to organise and analyse our money, using a grid-like structure - making it more “visually appealing” to see where money is going. Of course, we can customise these templates based on the expenses we want to track.
Work Smarter Not Harder’s YouTube video on building an Excel budget template is a great place for beginners to get started.
We also like Money Saving Supermarket’s free budget planner spreadsheet, which can be accessed on Excel or printed and filled out by hand. It allows us to detail all of our incomings and outgoings so we can stay on top of our money.
5. Trust Management software
When we’re responsible for managing funds held in a trust, trust management software can be useful. There are various products available, which allow us to oversee trust assets, monitor investments, generate reports, and track distributions. A good starting point would be a financial advisor.
Sibstar is a debit card and app helping families living with dementia to safely manage their loved one’s money. We can load a specific amount of money to the Sibstar account and use the app to manage how and where the money can be spent.
This allows the person we care for, to retain their financial independence without coming to harm. For instance, we could allow the card to be used at in-store till points such as the supermarket, but restrict its use online and cashpoints, to shield them from scammers.
To join Sibstar, there’s a £4.99 set-up fee and a £4.99 monthly subscription fee, while ATM withdrawals cost 99p. Sibstar says that 7.5% of profits go directly back to Alzheimer’s Society too.
If the person you are caring for doesn’t have dementia but you think the Sibstar card would be helpful do get in touch with the Sibstar team.
7. Digital Banking apps
Digital banks like Monzo, Starling and Revolut are free to sign up to and have lots of benefits for people caring for someone. We still get a physical bank card but all the banking is done online on a mobile app.
The most useful features include:
Joint accounts: Digital banks often provide the option to open joint accounts. This means the person we care for can have the independence of their own account and bank card, but we can have real-time visibility of their finances at the click of an app. This allows us to keep an eye on their spending habits.
Set spending limits: With a digital bank account, we can also set spending limits for the person we care for. This means they can avoid overspending and manage their own money effectively. We can also move the rest of their money into a ‘safe space’ so it’s not available to be spent, if the card gets stolen. (We can also ‘lock’ the card via our app, as soon as we know it is missing).
Create pots: We can create ‘digital pots’ to categorise money in the account. Pots help us to allocate and organise funds. For instance, we may want to move their bill money and grocery money into separate pots so we can see what’s left over. We could also create an emergency ‘buffer’ pot for any unforeseen costs. We can then set up recurring transfers to move money automatically each month. Some banks also have a ‘round-up’ feature that rounds up transactions to the nearest pound and moves the leftover change into a savings pot.
“I love using the saving spaces [pots] in my Starling bank account. I have pots for all known expenditures such as groceries, hair cuts, bills, plus one for emergencies. I also have a small pot called ‘fun’ which makes me smile. It really helps me stay on top of things.”
Split the bill at the click of a button: If we’re set up with digital banking accounts at the same provider, we can easily split bills and transactions with the person we care for. The bill-splitting feature on banks like Monzo lets us ping a request to a ‘friend’ to share the bill evenly or specify individual amounts. This can be really handy if we’re splitting the cost of groceries or bills.
See money clearly: Digital banks update in real-time. This means that the balance updates instantly after each transaction, so we can always see how much money is available in the account.
See upcoming bill payments: Digital banks provide apps that allow carers to access their statement on the go. We can instantly get an overview of our bills and direct debits so there won’t be any nasty surprises at the end of the month.
Can I legally manage someone else’s money?
We must have legal authority to manage someone’s money. This can be obtained by getting permission from the person we care for and following the necessary legal processes.
What is a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA)?
Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal document that allows us to act on their behalf. It gives us legal powers to make decisions about their health, welfare and/or finances.
LPAs are incredibly useful as they allow us to step in and make important decisions at the point when the person we care for is no longer able to.
It allows people living with chronic health conditions, disabilities, age-related cognitive decline or serious illness to plan for a future where their ability to manage their own affairs is diminished. Our guide to understanding and applying for Lasting Power of Attorney contains everything we need to know about the process.
“Do get LPA sorted whilst she has the capacity to agree to it! Many leave it till it's too late and end up having to go through complex hoops to obtain guardianship (lengthy and expensive).”
What is a deputyship?
If the person we care for does not have mental capacity, we will need to apply for a court-appointed deputyship. These can be more complex and costly to obtain, involving a court proceeding where a judge will determine if the person we care for requires a deputyship - and if we’re the best person for the job.
Cognitive disabilities, mental illness, or conditions like Alzheimer’s that affect decision-making abilities are all reasons why people apply for deputyship. As a deputy, we’re able to make financial and welfare decisions on their behalf. Our Carer’s Guide to Lasting Power of Attorney contains a section on what to do in the event of mental incapacity, with detailed instructions on applying for a deputyship.
What are direct payments?
Direct payments allow us to receive cash payments from our local council instead of care services, directly to our bank account or a managed account. We can use these funds to employ a care worker or personal assistant to help with day-to-day needs, where this isn’t provided by the local council.
We may want to purchase equipment or aids that help the person we’re caring for. Ultimately, direct payments give us more choice and control over the care support we receive.
Direct payments are usually arranged by our local council or social service department. Our carers’ guide to getting paid home care includes information on how to arrange a needs assessment to set up direct payments.
What are wills and trusts?
Wills and trusts are legal arrangements that set out how a person’s assets and property will be distributed or managed in the event of someone’s passing.
Whether we want to make sure the person we care for is looked after beyond our own lives, or we need to make will arrangements on their behalf, our guide to wills and trusts covers all the important details and jargon.
How to have difficult money conversations
For those of us that struggle to discuss money, here are some ideas for broaching the subject:
1. Pick the right time - There’s never a perfect time to discuss money, but avoid times when the person we care for (or ourselves) might be stressed, agitated, tired, hungry or upset.
2. Find a comfortable location - Avoid bringing the ‘who pays’ topic up in public to avoid embarrassment or conflict. Chat somewhere privately where the person feels relaxed enough to have an open conversation.
3. Have the conversation privately - Even if we have family members who share the cost of caring, it may help to start by gently approaching the topic one-on-one.
4. Write down what we want to say - Getting our points across clearly will help to avoid misunderstandings.
5. Stick to the facts - Even if we’re angry or frustrated about the cost of caring, it won’t necessarily help to bring heated emotions into the conversation. Instead, we can try explaining that the cost of caring impacts our finances and that we’re keen to discuss our options, to get to a more balanced and sustainable place. It may also be helpful to leave other caring-related niggles out of this conversation.
6. Be collaborative - A good conversation opener could be, "I was thinking we could look at our finances together and see how we can manage the cost of caring as a team. I’d like to hear your thoughts and come to an agreement together". Or something similar that would work for you.
7. Find a solution that works for everyone - Acknowledge that there may be compromises along the way. The goal is to achieve and maintain a stable caring situation that can survive long term. Our plan should have good financial grounding that allows for a safe level of care for everyone.
Dealing with a negative reaction to money conversations
Not every conversation about money will go smoothly.
Despite our best intentions, we can easily end up in disagreements that cause bitterness, resentment, and frustration.
It can be helpful to remember that the person we care for may be experiencing all kinds of emotions coming to terms with the fact that they can no longer safely manage their own money.
If money conversations have gone poorly, here are some tips for getting the conversation back on track:
Listen to their concerns. It’s important we consider their opinion.
Ask relevant questions. We may be able to reassure some of their concerns.
Clarify the conversation's aim. Avoid getting caught in an argument. Explain that caring is expensive and that we need to agree on how our finances should be managed to be able to provide for everyone involved.
Give them choices. Share different ways they could contribute to costs.
Give them space. It may be useful to revisit the topic another time if the conversation isn’t moving forward.
How the person we care for can ‘chip in’ with their costs
Even with a rise in the cost of living, we might feel uncomfortable asking the person we care for to cover their costs. It’s important to consider affordability too, as it may be the case that they cannot reasonably afford to pay for everything.
Many carers in the Mobilise community have taken a flexible approach to the problem, finding creative ways to split household costs.
Here are some ideas to suit every budget:
Covering their personal expenses
Covering our loss of earnings. Legally they will be your employer, so you’ll need to register as self-employed and declare your yearly earnings by submitting an annual self-assessment tax return. If the person you care for wants to use Direct Payments to pay you, it's important to know that this often isn't possible. The rules change by region, so check with your social worker or local council.
Paying monthly ‘rent’. Having a direct debit set up for rent and board can eliminate confusion over ‘who bought what’. The cost may also be a fraction of a care home. The government’s Rent a Room Scheme lets us earn up to a threshold of £7,500 per year tax-free from letting out a room in our home. If we earn more than this we’ll need to fill out a tax return.
Contributing to household costs (shopping etc). Instead of paying rent and bills, the person we care for could pick up the weekly shop on their card.
Paying for petrol
Paying for a cleaner. Paying for a professional cleaner on a weekly or fortnightly basis can help to reduce stress and give us some much-needed free time.
Paying for a subscription. For instance, the person we care for could pay for a meal delivery subscription such as Hello Fresh, which makes cooking easier. Or maybe they could cover the cost of a subscription to Netflix or Sky.
Covering something small that sparks joy for us. Could they pick up a subscription to our favourite magazine, sign up for a monthly flower delivery service or pay for us to go swimming once a week? These types of contributions help us to feel valued.
If the person we care for can't contribute money to our pot, our wider caring circle may be able to support us in other ways.
This could be babysitting other children in the household or dropping off groceries when we cannot get to the supermarket. ‘Hands-on deck’ support can also be valuable to us.
What if I don’t feel comfortable charging for care costs?
Some of us don’t, and that’s OK.
This arrangement is not for everyone and doesn’t align with everyone’s cultural values to ask for money. We’re conscious that everyone’s situation is different.
But, it’s worth taking some time to look at our finances and explore our feelings on the topic, and how financially sustainable we are. Allowing us to reach the decision that’s right for us.
Family dynamics and money
Arguments over money can ruin family relationships.
Whether squabbles over differing values or bigger disagreements about family inheritance, conversations about financial matters can quickly turn heated. Some reasons include:
Disagreements over how much to spend: We might have very different opinions on what we’d like to spend our money on, compared to the person we care for. We might opt for cheap and cheerful supermarket brands, while they prefer pricier options. These tensions can come to the fore if we’re caring for an elderly parent who instilled deep-rooted beliefs about money from a young age.
Trust issues across the family: Money can feel like a secretive topic and people in our wider family or caring circle may distrust our control over someone else’s finances. Or, the person we care for may not feel happy that someone else is accessing their money on their behalf, even if it’s in their best interests. It’s a big deal to accept that you need help with your finances.
Disagreements over how money is distributed: Siblings and other family members may be concerned about the future of their inheritance, or some parents may be wanting their money to go to family and not be spent on them or their care. If we’ve given up work to care, we may be financially worse off and feel resentment because of this.
If our stress or anxieties around money are affecting our day-to-day, we may want to chat to someone about our feelings.
We have a helpful guide on where to go if we just need someone to listen.
How to protect our feelings in family dispute about money
Stay calm: Take deep breaths and aspire to stay calm and not react, even if we know we’re in the right. This helps us to maintain control over our emotions and think more clearly.
Establish boundaries: If the argument becomes disrespectful or personal, calmly bring the conversation back to the original topic. It’s OK to clearly communicate our limits and doing so may help to stop the argument turning nasty. Use sentences like “I hear what you’re saying and I understand the impact on you…” this can help people feel heard, before we bring the topic back to what we want.
Take the emotion out: It’s easy to fly off the handle in an argument. Try a technique called ‘self-distancing’, which involves speaking to ourselves in the third person.
Instead of asking ‘Why am I angry?’, ask ‘Why is Liz angry?’. It may sound odd, but research has found that it can help us to take a psychological step back and stay calm during a row.
Put ourselves in their shoes: Have we checked if we’ve dismissed their suggestions too quickly? Ask ourselves, are there any benefits to doing things ‘their way’ that we’ve overlooked in the heat of the moment?
Use empathy: Even if we’ve concluded the person is in the wrong, try to understand why they may be reacting the way they are. For instance, a sibling might be irrationally upset about a parent moving into a care home because they’re mourning the loss of their independence, rather than the financial spend.
Avoid accusations: When we’re getting our points across, try not to revert to blaming statements like, ‘You always disagree’ or ‘You never help’. This approach focuses on our own emotions and experiences rather than placing blame.
Compromise: When we’re in a disagreement, the goal is not to win, but to try to come to a collaborative agreement. Shift our mindset from ‘winning’ the argument to finding a resolution that satisfies both parties.
But don’t burn ourselves out: In some instances, we may not be able to come to a reasonable agreement with family members. While we can‘t control how other people react, we can choose to step away and disengage whenever we need to. Consider whether the issue is worth pursuing or if we’d be better off ‘letting it go’.
Try the ‘cord cutting’ exercise: Mindset tools can help us to let go of stress and limiting beliefs. We like this guided cord cutting exercise on YouTube that involves severing an imaginary cord that holds all the negative emotions and blaming words associated with the argument.
Use affirmations: Arguments with family can trigger limiting beliefs that we aren’t doing a good job in our care role. Telling ourselves, ‘My best is enough’ can remind us that we’re doing OK.
Journal: Research has found that journaling can help to ease our distress when we’re struggling. Simply jotting down our feelings may help us to stop replaying the argument in our minds. We have a guide to journaling for tips on getting started.
As we’ve previously explored in our ‘Guide to holding on to your sense of self’, making time for self-replenishment is really important.
When we’re burnt out, frustrated and feeling low, we can’t bring our best selves to the table. Scheduling pockets of micro-respite can help us to feel refreshed and re-energised.
What financial help is available for me?
As an unpaid carer, it can be helpful to know what financial support there is.
We've created a simple Financial Checklist for us to see what we're entitled to.
Finally, if we do one thing today…
Set up a conversation with our caring circle (the friend and family members involved in the person’s care) about how our finances are arranged. This could be over coffee at a local cafe or on a video call at home. To help get the ball rolling, we’ve put together a list of starter questions:
What financial skills can we each bring to the table? (One person might be great at budgeting, while another might be a whiz at keeping on top of receipts)
How best can we split the responsibility of managing money?
If something happened to the person we care for, what will happen to their money?
Have we made all the arrangements we need for the future, including LPAs, wills and trusts? And are we all in the loop?
Money can be tricky, but being proactive and having collaborative conversations on managing the cost of caring is a great starting point.
Join the Mobilise Community
We really hope this guide has been useful for your own financial situation, and if you have a tip that you think other carers would benefit from, please do hop over to our online community to share.
Pop into one of our weekly Cuppas ☕
We also hold weekly Cuppas - virtual video chats with up to 12 other carers - where we get together and share advice and tips. Take a look at the cuppas we have in our latest timetable. No need to register, we hope to see you there!