With 35% of the nation’s wealth held by those over age 65, being aware of how your aging loved one manages his or her finances is important. Financial problems can result from financial abuse or money mistakes from the elder themselves.
The Face of Financial Abuse
Older Americans lose $2.9 billion a year from financial abuse. Half of elder financial abuse comes from cons and robbery by strangers. Sadly, 34% of the culprits are family, friends, and neighbors. The most common crimes are check forgery, stolen credit cards, and asset transfers without consent. Rounding out the perpetrators are the business sector (12%) and Medicare & Medicaid fraud (4%).
Women tend to be more vulnerable and are twice as likely to be victims. The common profile is older adults ages 80 to 89 who live alone and require health or home maintenance.
Just a Mistake?
While one-time oversights can be innocent, multiple mistakes with finances can be warning signs of a bigger problem. Difficulty with financial management can indicate mild cognitive impairment or the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Common problems include forgetting to pay bills, paying bills twice, difficulty with simple math, new interest in get-rich-quick schemes, and inability to understand concepts such as interest rates.
Ways to Protect Finances
Automatic bill pay and deposit of checks
Protection on bank accounts against transfers exceeding a certain amount without a co-signer
Durable power of attorney for finances and medical needs
Living trust to pay the person’s living expenses
When addressing the issues, join with other family members for a united approach. Explain to your loved ones that you want the best for them and to keep their finances safe. Since older adults are not in a position to replace their lost money, have the conversation sooner rather than later. Your vigilance can protect your loved ones from the deceit of financial abuse and keep them focused on enjoying their later years.