We have worked with thousands of clients to help them develop a personalized retirement plan that protects their assets as they age. But even the best plan can be jeopardized if a retiree falls victim to financial abuse and fraud. Sadly this type of rip-off happens all too frequently – and often secretly.
We recently saw this article about elder financial abuse on the website NextAvenue.org. Written by the president of Allianz Insurance Company, Walter White, the article points out a tragic fact: half of all incidents of financial fraud perpetrated on elderly victims is never reported. As boomers age and the senior population grows, the incidence of financial fraud and deception will continue to rise. Demographics could turn the problem of financial abuse of elders into an epidemic.
There are several reasons why financial fraud, abuse and deception of seniors often go unreported. Some seniors are embarrassed to admit they have been victimized. Other times the perpetrator is someone the senior has trusted, even a member of his or her own family. This goes hand in hand with the decline in numerical acuity many of us experience as we age. This decline can make us more susceptible to schemes and proposals we would never have entertained when we were younger.
While stopping financial elder abuse may be impossible, there are ways you can prevent it for yourself or someone you love. According to author Walter White, “The most effective way to help safeguard yourself, if you’re over 60, is to bring the issue to light. Simply put, make it a priority to talk to friends and family members you truly trust.” In his article, White specifically recommends that seniors keep at least two trusted people clued into the basics of your financial situation. Certainly one of these can be an attorney or financial advisor. (Here at Aging Options we have performed this function for many of our clients.)
White writes, “We found that elders who regularly talk to a third-party resource about their finances feel they are better equipped, more confident and better able to identify and prevent elder financial abuse.”
Sadly, most seniors fail to follow this advice. The article states that fewer than one quarter of seniors who had already been victimized were regularly discussing their finances with others to prevent future fraud and abuse. This secrecy multiplies the risk that fraud could happen again.
One helpful take-away from this article is this list of four warning signs that someone isn’t handling numbers as well as they used to. If you experience these signs in yourself or someone you care about, it may suggest special caution is needed. When seniors begin losing some of their financial acuity:
- They take longer than usual to pay bills or file income taxes
- They start having trouble finding specific details in a bank statement
- They struggle more than usual to calculate the tip at a restaurant
- They show an unusual, uncharacteristic interest in get-rich-quick schemes that would never have interested them when they were younger.
The article concludes with advice we strongly endorse: seniors must not be afraid to lean on others for assistance, especially in the area of finances. Why not let us serve as one of your sources for objective advice? Among our other services, we will assist you in preparing a retirement plan, called a LifePlan, to help you protect your assets in retirement while ensuring that you avoid becoming a burden to those you love. We can also advise you in ways to prevent financial fraud and abuse that can decimate your savings.
The best way to start is by attending one of our free LifePlanning Seminars. It’s a fast-paced, fun event, filled with helpful information. Click on the Upcoming Events tab on this website to register for a free seminar near you. We’ll consider it an honor to work with you!
(Originally reported at www.nextavenue.org)