Ask three friends how many of them are helping to take care of an aging parent, and guaranteed at least one of them will say that they are, or did, or plan to. That person might even be you. Sometimes the responsibility is shared among family members, sometimes it falls squarely on just one person’s shoulders. It doesn’t matter if Mom or Dad lives right around the corner or halfway across the country, caregiving for an aging parent is stressful, particularly when it’s added onto an already hectic work and family schedule.
This month we have the pleasure of introducing you to Rick and Marcy Lynch, founders of DivvyCare. DivvyCare is your financial care-sharing tool – it takes the chore of handling all the bills off your plate, leaving you more time for the things in life that really matter.
Vital: What made you decide to start DivvyCare?
Rick: Like most things, it was born of necessity. My brother was living in Boston near my father, I was here and my sister was in Pittsburgh. My dad was very independent; in fact, it’s hard to imagine him ever asking for help, so we just tried to keep an eye on the big picture – that he was doing ok after mom passed away, he was healthy, still driving ok, that type of thing. My father was always very much on top of paying his bills. I remember, growing up, seeing him every Saturday morning at the kitchen table, scouring the bills, writing checks. He enjoyed the task, the order and organization of it all. So looking back now, we probably should have noticed sooner that when we visited Dad we’d see random piles of bills on the coffee table, or a nightstand, or on the kitchen counter. It was so unlike him to be so disorganized. But it wasn’t until a summer vacation when all of us siblings were together with dad that we realized that he was overwhelmed, so we started to help him with his bills.
Because my brother had kids in high school, and traveled a lot for work, we couldn’t ask him to take on the task alone, so we divvied up the responsibility. Luckily too, because as you know, sometimes more than one set of eyes can uncover something otherwise overlooked. First we discovered that Dad was being charged for a rather expensive publication that he was throwing out as “junk” – and it would have continued renewing unless cancelled (which we did). Then we found that at one time he had been on a “budget” payment plan with the oil company, where he’d remit a set amount to them regardless of usage. Energy prices had plummeted, and along with them, his monthly bill, but he still kept paying that previous amount. His oil company ended up holding lots of his money!
After talking to other people, we discovered our situation is common. So we created a tool for friends and family to help their “team” care for a loved one.
Vital!: How did you know where or even how to start?
Rick: We already had the expertise. We’ve had a property management company for years, so already had the systems in place for collecting college rents and paying bills for many tenants. And then our oldest daughter went off to school. As anyone who has kids sharing living space with others can tell you, divvying up the bills and getting them paid is a headache. When Amy was living off-campus with roommates, we spend untold hours figuring out who owed what, collecting checks, and having uncomfortable conversations. And she still walked away with a ding on her credit due to a roommate not paying a utility bill. So when our second daughter went off to school, we started iDivyy.net. iDivvy helps roommates (and their parents!) keep track of and pay the bills, and helps them avoid late payments and utility shutoffs. We took those core competencies and directed our resources toward older adults. DivvyCare solves one of the most common problems caregivers face when caring for a loved one – tackling the bills. Now multiple authorized caregivers can monitor all the bills 24/7 from anywhere in the world, can help get those bills paid, and can share in the decision-making necessary to help their loved one. Our tool, in essence, “divvies up” the responsibility – DivvyCare!
Vital!: Who benefits most from DivvyCare?
Marcy: Everyone! Peace of mind is one of the greatest benefits of DivvyCare. Imagine not needing to worry about late fees, or more importantly, whether the lights or heat will be shut off because of a past due bill. Because of our experience, we even built in another safeguard: We monitor your bills and alert you if there are any unusually large bills or out-of-place charges.
Vital!: This is great! How does it work?
Marcy: Just let us know which bills you’d like to have paid by DivvyCare. We’ll take it from there. First we’ll arrange to have the bills sent to us. That way you’re out from under that pile of paper. Then as soon as we get the bills we scan them into your DivvyCare online portal. That way you can see the bills whenever you want to. If more than one person is helping to pay or needs to see the bills (that could be multiple children, a different caregiver, a legal representative – whoever makes up your “team”) each authorized individual will have complete access to the account. Everyone knows what is going on all the time. You decide for yourself which bills you want us to pay and how much you want us to pay, and deposit funds accordingly. And you can make changes whenever you want. Once DivvyCare makes a payment on your behalf, you’re notified that the bill has been paid, and at the end of each month you’ll get a full report of all bills that have been paid along with your remaining account balance. It’s important to keep in mind that the purpose of DivvyCare is to organize and pay the bills. You’re still responsible for reviewing the bills; should there be a problem, you’d deal directly with the creditor.
Vital!: How do users remit money to DivvyCare?
Rick: Together with your personal DivvyCare care manager, you’ll put together a blueprint of how you want the bills to be paid. Do you want to pay balances in full? Minimum payments? Do you want to put money into your account once a month? Every week? Send a check? Use ACH? It’s up to you, and you can always make changes. Unlike other bill pay services that expect you to send them voided checks and expect you to give them access to all of your money, DivvyCare will NEVER have access your bank accounts. You remit the dollar amount needed to cover the bills. Want to change anything about how we pay the bills? No problem! All it takes is one call to your DivvyCare care manager to get it done. We can even handle one-time payments for you, say, for an appliance repair.
Vital!: Marcy, earlier you said you send alerts if there are any unusual charges. How does that work?
Marcy: First of all, we don’t keep track of your purchasing preferences or activity – that’s up to you. We do, however, have the ability to recognize unusual trends which we’ll bring to your attention. Say for example that after a year of paying your quarterly water bill, we’re aware that your average bill is about $100, but the current bill is $300. We’ll alert you to the variance.
Vital!: Does DivvyCare take the place of a Daily Money Manager?
Rick: Although we’re members of the American Association of Money Managers, we do not take their place. Daily Money Managers get paid an hourly fee of anywhere from $75.00 per hour on up to help clients handle financial affairs, which could include organizing and keeping track of important medical and insurance papers, but could also include clerical functions like opening, sorting , and actually paying the bills. We’ve found that often, though, simply getting the bills paid is the single biggest cause of a family’s frustration. If you can get that problem solved for a flat fee every month, you might not even need a daily money manager. But if you do need a DMM, by eliminating his or her clerical duties, that hourly fee you pay can be spent on time focusing on the more strategic issues facing a client.
Vital!: When do people turn to DivvyCare?
Marcy: People turn to DivvyCare to simplify, to organize, and to gain peace of mind. Inability to keep up with the bills might seem like a small problem, but the consequences of that problem are huge – late fees, foreclosure notices, services shut off. In fact, difficulties with finances are one of the first problems that pop up that make families start thinking about bringing in outside help or even moving an overwhelmed loved one out of their home. But in many instances, that would be overkill. Dad doesn’t need a $25 an hour caregiver to keep him company. All he needs is to stop worrying about the bills. So when should DivvyCare come into play? The minute you feel that little more than $25 a month will free you and your family from worrying about potential financial disaster and get you out enjoying life.
Vital!: Wow! That’s less than a late fee or bounced check fee! How do readers get in touch with you if they have questions, want to learn more or want to get started?
Marcy: Just give us a call at 1-888-222-CARE (888-222-2273) or visit us on the web at www.divvycare.net. We’re here for you!