Caregivers Helping with Finances Urged to Switch to Direct Deposit
New government survey finds time-strapped caregivers burdened with financial decisions overlook decades-old tool
WASHINGTON, D.C. - (June 22, 2009) Half of American caregivers make health-related decisions for a loved one, and a new government survey finds an equal number are now helping to manage the finances of a parent, friend or other person needing their care - adding to caregivers' levels of stress and anxiety. Yet, surprisingly, only 52 percent of caregivers receiving Social Security payments on behalf of the person they care for say they use direct deposit, a decades-old time-saving tool that is safer and more reliable than paper checks.
According to the nationwide survey, sponsored by the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Go Direct® campaign, one in four Americans define themselves as caregivers, with nearly eight in 10 caregivers providing two or more hours a week of voluntary help to a parent, friend or other loved one and four in 10 committing 10 or more hours a week of support. Approximately 6.5 million caregivers are receiving Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits on behalf of the person they care for.
"We want caregivers to know that by taking the simple, but important step of switching to direct deposit - and encouraging those they care for to do the same - people can avoid problems associated with paper checks and count on getting their money on time each month," said David A. Lebryk, Acting Commissioner of the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Financial Management Service. "Importantly, direct deposit can also protect people from serious financial crimes like check theft and fraud. The last thing caregivers should have to worry about is a lost or stolen check."
Last year alone, more than 480,000 Social Security checks were reported lost or stolen and had to be reissued, while $64 million in Treasury-issued checks were fraudulently endorsed. Americans can easily switch to direct deposit of their Social Security and other federal benefits for free by calling the Go Direct campaign's toll-free helpline at (800) 333-1795 or visiting www.GoDirect.org.
Caregivers pushed to their limits
According to the survey, the impact of caregiving responsibilities among Americans is significant:
The problems of paper checks are broad-reaching
According to the survey, one in four caregivers say they have been unable to cash or deposit a check in a timely fashion because of issues like not being able to get to the bank during business hours, being too busy or being out of town. Nevertheless, one in five caregivers still make trips to the bank to cash or deposit a check on behalf of the person they care for. What's more, approximately 30 percent continue to rely on time-consuming paper checks for their own regular payments, even though most acknowledge that getting their money electronically would be more convenient.
Treasury receives 1.4 million inquiries regarding problems with paper checks each year, and although paper checks make up just 20 percent of the total number of Social Security and SSI payments, they account for more than 90 percent of reported problems.
Concerns about financial crimes are widespread
Financial crime is a more widespread concern among caregivers than the national average - with more than half (56 percent) saying they have been a victim of identity theft or know someone who has, compared to 45 percent of all adults nationally. The vast majority of caregivers agree that direct deposit is the safest way to receive their money and that it provides a better safeguard against identity theft and fraud than paper checks (more than eight in 10). Yet, only half of caregivers who cash or deposit paper checks for the person they care for have ever encouraged their loved ones to switch to direct deposit.
Making the switch to direct deposit
Americans can easily sign up for direct deposit of their Social Security or other federal benefits for free by calling Treasury's Go Direct campaign helpline at (800) 333-1795, visiting www.GoDirect.org, or talking to their local bank or credit union. Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefit recipients without a bank account can choose to sign up for the Treasury-recommended Direct Express® Debit MasterCard® card by calling toll-free 1-877-212-9991, visiting www.USDirectExpress.com or talking to their local Social Security office.
Caregiver results are from a national telephone survey of 548 adults, ages 18 and over, conducted January 23 - January 30, 2009, by KRC Research. The margin of error for the overall study is +/- 4.1 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. National results are from a nationally representative telephone survey of 1005 adults, ages 18 and over, conducted January 23 - January 30, 2009, by KRC Research. The margin of error for the overall study is +/- 3.1 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.
About Go Direct: Go Direct® is a national campaign sponsored by the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve Banks to motivate people who get Social Security and other federal benefits by check to switch to direct deposit.
About the Direct Express® card: The Direct Express® Debit MasterCard® card is a prepaid debit card for Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments. Cardholders can make purchases, pay bills, and get cash at thousands of locations nationwide. Sign-up is free and no bank account is required. Most services are free. There are fees for a limited number of optional transactions and services.
The Go Direct® logo, Direct Express® logo, and Direct Express® are service marks of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Financial Management Service (used with permission).
The Direct Express® Debit MasterCard® card is issued by Comerica Bank, pursuant to a license by MasterCard International Incorporated. MasterCard® and the MasterCard® Brand Mark are registered trademarks of MasterCard International Incorporated.