We are all, inexorably, marching toward old age. By 2030, 72 million Americans will be age 65 or older. The good news is longevity has been improving, and people are remaining healthy and vibrant at older ages.
The bad news is cultural perceptions of “old” people have not kept pace. A 2016 analysis by the World Health Organization found ageism was abundant and many people were completely unaware of their biases toward older people.
Psychology Today warned, “The especially slippery part about ageism is that we can witness it in action time and again throughout society, often without anything triggering our internal antennae that tells us ‘Hey, something is deeply amiss here.’”
Ageism and elder abuse
One of the ugly things hiding beneath the rock of ageism is elder abuse, including financial exploitation. During 2017, the Department of Health and Human Resources reported, “Each year, an estimated five million older persons are abused, neglected, and exploited.”
Just two percent of financial exploitation cases are ever reported, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, which is one reason elder abuse has been dubbed a silent epidemic. There are many reasons older Americans don’t report abuse. Some may be afraid of retaliation or fear their misjudgment will cause them to lose independence. Others may be ashamed they’ve made a mistake or embarrassed a family member has betrayed them. Additionally, older people may worry they won’t be believed or think they have no legal recourse.
Watch for signs in older relatives and friends
If you’re not sure whether older relatives or friends are safe from abuse, the U.S. Department of Justice has identified signs and symptoms that may indicate a problem. The first step is to stay in touch and ask questions to uncover any issues. In addition, it’s a good idea to watch for:
Sudden changes in bank account or banking practices, including withdrawals or transfers of large sums of money;
New names on an older person’s bank signature card;
Unauthorized ATM withdrawals;
Changes to a will or other financial documents;
The disappearance of money or valuable possessions;
Forged signatures on financial transactions or for the titles of possessions;
Previously uninvolved family members claiming the right to manage an older person’s affairs or appropriate their possessions.
Plan ahead to protect yourself
Not everyone develops mental or physical infirmities as they age, but it may be better to plan ahead and have some control over the potential outcome than it is to ignore the problem. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority recommends investors take several steps to protect themselves. These include:
Taking inventory and getting organized. Gather all of your important financial documents, including bank, brokerage, and retirement plan statements, and give copies to one or more carefully chosen individuals
Giving a list of emergency contacts to your financial professional. Make a list of people you trust – people your financial advisor can contact if you are acting confused or out of character or the advisor suspects something is wrong.
Creating a durable financial power of attorney. A power of attorney allows someone else to become your agent and act on your behalf if you are incapacitated.
Elder abuse and financial exploitation are all too common. It’s important to take steps to protect both our loved ones and ourselves.
Securities offered through LPL, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through Private Advisor Group, a registered investment advisor. Private Advisor Group and Antoine Williams & Associates Financial Services are separate entities from LPL Financial. This material was prepared by Peak Advisor Alliance. Peak Advisor Alliance is not affiliated with the named broker/dealer.