Balancing a checkbook, getting bills in the mail, writing the checks and sending them back out is a pretty common occurrence in most households. The Money Minders program from Southern Maine Agency on Aging matches trained and bonded volunteers with clients who need help managing their daily and monthly budgets including paying bills in a timely manner.
With this type of help, adults over age 55 can continue to live independently, while preserving dignity and privacy.
The free, individualized program can be tailored to meet the needs of each client, according to program coordinator Nancy Gray, who started with the program over the summer.
“I was particularly interested in this position at the Southern Maine Agency on Aging because I helped my aunt as she got older, and when I saw this program and how it helps, I could see that a program like this would’ve helped my aunt a lot,” she said. Unfortunately, Gray didn’t know about this program at the time.
Most of the clients drive, cook and are very active, they just have trouble balancing their checkbook register, Gray said.
Most clients see a Money Minder once a month. There are options for visits more often if needed.
The Money Minder program has a strong volunteer base, but finding volunteers where there are clients and vice versa proves to be tricky in some areas. There are a few volunteers in the Windham and Raymond areas and clients who are using the program now. There is always room for more volunteers and clients, Gray said.
There are requirements for eligibility into the program. Clients must have an annual income of less than or equal to $45,000 or $55,000 for two people and liquid assets of no more than $100,000, not including primary residences, first car or retirement accounts.
“As you get older, people have trouble with numbers,” Gray said. “Keeping track of bills and when the bills are due, gets more challenging as they get older.”
There are many safeguards put into place to protect the volunteer and the client including not having more than $3,500 in the checkbook they are working with. The client is the only one who signs the checks. The clients also provide access to the bills and bank statements and have a desk or table where the volunteer can work.
The volunteer can help with creating a basic budget, opening, organizing and sending out mail, writing checks, but not signing them, balancing a client’s checkbook and assisting creditors and referring resources to the client.
“There are a lot of checks and balances to make sure everything is done in a manner the client will be happy with,” Gray said. Services are offered in York and Cumberland counties.
The volunteers have financial training, with many having backgrounds in banking and accounting. They are also teachers and attorneys. One question Gray asks new volunteers is “Are they the ones in their family that balances their checkbooks?”
“The volunteers get the sense of satisfaction that they’re helping someone who might not be able to stay in their home,” Gray said.
The office for Money Minders is in Scarborough. For more information, to volunteer or enlist the services of Money Minders, call 207-396-6538 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.