SUNDAYMONEY: PLANNING; Tired of Stamp-Li

SUNDAYMONEY: PLANNING; Tired of Stamp-Licking? A Daily Money Manager Can Help
By JENNIFER FRIEDLIN

LAST year, Harold Podberesky, 87, became overwhelmed by the mound of bills piling up in his mailbox. He said he wanted to continue living on his own but could no longer stay on top of paying the utility bills or balancing his checkbook. So he turned to the ElderCare Connection, a private social service agency that helps older people in south Florida sort through their mail, pay bills and even invest their money.

”It’s getting to the point that everything is becoming an effort, even writing a check,” said Mr. Podberesky, a retired plastics worker in Pembroke Pines, Fla., who lives off of his Social Security payments and the interest from his cash investments. ”Now, I’m relaxed. I don’t have to bother with anything. I don’t have to go to the post office for stamps — nothing.”

For people no longer able to handle day-to-day financial chores — or for those of any age who simply feel that their time is better spent doing other things — daily money managers are available across the country to plan budgets, pay bills, file medical and insurance claims, negotiate with creditors and call vendors to sort out questionable charges. Their fees typically range from $25 to $100 an hour, and they work for people of a wide range of incomes and backgrounds.

Until recently, such services were generally reserved for the very wealthy, who received them through companies known as family offices that were staffed with an armada of professionals, including lawyers, accountants and financial planners. Over the past few years, more spartan versions of these services have been made available to people of modest means, while many accountants and some financial advisers have begun offering more elaborate services to attract well-heeled clients.

”There’s a tremendous demand for a broader range of services,” said Gary Schatsky, a fee-only financial adviser based in New York who is president of the ObjectiveAdvice Group. He provides a range of services, including investment management, tax preparation, mortgage advice and bill-paying for clients earning $40,000 to $4 million a year.

”Part of what I do I consider essential advice, and part of what I do is snow shoveling,” Mr. Schatsky said. ”You can shovel your own snow, but it’s much more delightful to have someone shovel it for you.”

American Express Tax and Business Services, a division of American Express, offers everything from recordkeeping and bill-paying to help in choosing insurance. Other firms help clients keep an inventory of collectibles, for example, and arrange for more indulgent ”concierge services,” like walking the dog.

”Some clients call up and say: ‘I want to buy a horse farm in upstate New York. How do I find an appraiser?”’ said Joel Gensler, a partner at Eisner L.L.P., an accounting firm based in New York.

”People have more money and less time, and they would rather do other things” than deal with financial matters, Mr. Gensler said. The firm charges about $125 an hour for financial housekeeping services, and Mr. Gensler said his clients might pay from $500 to $5,000 a month for them, depending on the number of transactions required.

For those on tighter budgets, daily money managers can also provide ways to lighten domestic financial chores. These managers generally do not offer investment advice or brokerage services, but they deal with the nuisances of bill-paying, budgeting, filing insurance claims and handling creditors.

In hiring a daily money manager, experts say, people should remember the standard advice of not providing outsiders with access to their accounts. ”The last thing you want is to say, ‘Here’s my bank account number, go pay all my bills,’ and then you fall in with the wrong people,” said Jen Schwartzman, a spokeswoman for the Federal Trade Commission in Washington.

The safest way to maintain a relationship with a daily money manager…

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