Why Don’t Seniors Bank Online?

The banks are all closed…and my parents want to pay for the errands

A picture of a jam jar filled with dollar bills and the label on it says "retirement fund." This is a stock image for an AARP program called mysavingsjar
bank online or in a jar? ..image source: mysavingsjar.org (AARP)

Dear Ms Smartphone: I am helping my parents during the pandemic and do their grocery shopping and other chores. My Mom says she wants to reimburse me but she does not have Venmo or an account to bank online. The banks in our area are all closed and she does not want to go out anyway. Is it too late to get her to change her habits? Taylor, Newton

Dear Taylor,

Although they say that cash is king, it is certainly taking a backseat in this time of Covid. For fear of handling paper, more of us are using credit and debit cards.  And, for the smartphone savvy, this is the shining moment for Apple Pay and Google Pay (if not Bitcoin!).

Older people have preferred brick and mortar banks but this is probably the wakeup call to try online. Most older people have a foundation for trust since they receive digital funds through Social Security or Medicare.

It’s A big Loss….

One financial services firm, TrueLink, put the cost of elder financial abuse at nearly $37 billion per year. That includes a loss of around $17 billion from “exploitation” like quack investment schemes, nearly $13 billion from identity theft and other frauds, and just under $7 billion from abuse by caregivers. I think this is the worst case scenario, but the numbers do give pause.

How to Think Online…

Capital One (the bank) observed that only 18% of people over 60 used online banking. They developed an online curriculum with the National Council on Aging. If your parents are motivated to watch it, the multi-part videos should make them feel more secure and comfortable using their computer, if not their phone, for full scale banking. AARP also has a number of educationl programs, including mysavingsjar.org

The AARP has some good advice for doing banking when the banks are closed, and elsewhere, they have noted that depending on your parent’s situation, they might prefer an online account that allows a second pair or eyes to monitor it.

More Tips…

Accessing their phone instead of the computer for banking might seem like a viable option, but  I have some concerns.  Sometimes older people have difficulty using their phones for skilled task because of  health-related issues, like  eyesight deterioration or the coordination of motor skill. Sometimes they do not practice or know good digital hygiene:  for example, knowing how to log out of apps, use unique passwords, or practice two-step authentication.

So, if you do want to make them phone savvy perhaps a cash intermediary app like  Venmo or Paypal  might be a baby step for you and your parents to take together. Then you can exchange small amounts of money and get the groceries paid for without cash without full scale online banking.  But, if they are resistant, have Mom write you a plain old fashioined paper check that you can deposit in a digital second.