What does financial protection look like for seniors?
In my experience, some people are planners, and some let the chips fall where they may. For those of you who like to have their ducks in a row, lets take you to a point in time where you are up in years, and perhaps seeing some road signs that indicate curves ahead. How do you protect yourself and your spouse financially beyond the curve?
According to a frequently quoted study by TrueLink, the biggest financial risk is exploitation. This occurs when misleading or confusing language is used, often with some form of pressure tactics, that take advantage of even a slight cognitive decline or memory loss. Annually, loss incurred exceeds $36 billion dollars. It happens across all socio-economic levels, to men and especially to women. 36.9% of seniors are affected in any five-year period. Unfortunately, the bulk of financial abuse comes from family members and other trusted people.
Clare was mentally acute but had physical challenges that prevented her from writing checks legibly. She had no children and gave power of attorney to her niece. Her niece used the bank account to live a high lifestyle, thinking she would not get caught and that her aunt wouldn’t need ‘all that money’. One hundred thousand dollars later, Clare caught on.
Bruce, age 89, bought a new phone and was told he had to go to a Verizon retail store to get help switching to Consumer Cellular. He walked out with a $200/month unlimited data plan from Verizon.
These are real people that I know. The exploitation numbers don’t even include the common ‘errors’ that I see people make:
• Overpaying for services
• Not canceling or reducing insurance coverage
• Continuing to pay for things they no longer use
• Not realizing a charge will be recurring unless they cancel
The bottom line is that life gets risky once you lose your frisky! In every case of abuse, exploitation, or mistakenness that I have seen, there was not a second set of eyes; the senior did not have a team helping them and was trying to ‘go it alone’, usually to preserve independence or save money.
THE DREAM TEAM
So, what can you do? If that curve is ahead of you, it’s time to assemble your financial dream team if you have assets and loved ones (including yourself) to protect. The roles of the team are:
1. An attorney—to prepare your will, power of attorney, and health care documents; to set up trusts to protect assets from taxes, spendthrifts, divorce, etc. and to make a spouse with expensive healthcare needs Medicaid eligible without draining all the family resources.
2. An accountant—someone to do your taxes and provide valuable oversight and guidance.
3. A financial advisor—someone who can manage your investments, so they continue to grow and provide you with needed income and monitor for strange activity.
4. A daily money manager—someone that handles the everyday business details of your life and provides information to other team members; one who sees you regularly and has ‘boots on the ground’ with regard to your finances.
5. Your power of attorney (POA) designee—someone you can trust to sign documents in your stead when the need arises. Sometimes this person is also a trustee.
Since we are talking dream team, 4 and 5 can be two different people. Often, a daily money manager is given POA status on a full or limited basis to be able to expedite needed transactions. (These days, it is hard to get much done without POA paperwork or getting the principal involved, which is not always possible once incapacity is an issue.) Having a second POA is a great way to provide oversight. If they can both see transaction statements, then neither is likely to take advantage of you.
In an ideal world, these people all know and trust each other. They work together as a team. They communicate with you or together periodically to stay on the same page as issues arise. Your family knows them and may be part of the team as well. I humbly belong to several dream teams and it feels great when I know that something I did, served to protect a client.
In my next article, I will give you my insights on how to choose the people on your financial dream team. Choosing who will serve is what stops many from putting a team in place.