Protecting Seniors: It’s Time For A Preventative Approach

Photo by JD Mason on Unsplash

Senior citizens found themselves in the cross hairs of scammers and criminals a long time ago.  This is not a new issue. While the prevailing belief is that this is due to diminished capacity or because seniors are simply “easy prey”, it isn’t that simple.  What most don’t consider is that our senior community is the wealthiest demo in the country and there are little to no protections for the areas of financial management that most of these abuses stem from.

Various studies estimate that seniors in the U.S. are scammed out of anywhere from $3 billion to $37 billion a year.  Between 2013 and 2017, those over age 70 lost an average of $41,800 to elder financial exploitation, according to an analysis by the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  -CNBC 10/13/19

Any good businessperson agrees that success lies in finding a large pool of consumers that will pay top dollar for your good/service.  This the same principal that these miscreants adhere to – the country’s 52 million seniors whose average wealth is well in excess of 1 million dollars are their target market.  By leveraging sales tactics that prey on the senior’s fear, vulnerability or simply through a “hard sell”, the conversion from target to victim is swift.

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DQYDJ Average and Median Net Worth by Age Range, 2016. (Includes primary home equity.)

So, what do we do?  Let’s ask The Google……  There are pages and pages pointing to resources (professional, local and national) for those that have already fallen victim to these reprehensible activities – after the fact.  There is a ton of content for family, friends and professional advisors mostly entitled “The Top Warning Signs” – again, all after the fact.  The time has come to quit treating the epidemic and to begin inoculating.

Speaking of Warning Signs – there is plenty of associated content out there that creates a GIANT misconception – if someone has been victimized then there may be diminished capacity.  This is a gross generalization and should only be one of MANY considerations.  The cognitive divide between how someone oversees bill pay, email, marketing and financial/benefit management is far different today than it was a decade let alone three decades ago.  Trusting in a financial management system that has become foreign to us or someone who appears to be advocating on your behalf can play a big role in falling prey to a scam or criminal activity.  It is not necessarily a diagnosis for cognitive decline.  What is the net/net?  Everyone is susceptible.

Again, what to do?  Marketing/targeting through snail or e-mail and the phone as well as opportunistic caregivers are the central avenues for infiltration.  Today, most seniors continue to self manage or rely on family/friends or caregivers for guidance.  49% of those providing financial caregiving (paying the bills on behalf of loved ones, handling insurance claims, filing taxes) don’t have the legal authorization to do so.”  Merrill Lynch: The Journey Of Caregiving  It is time to put up road blocks but NOT minimize anyone’s ability to manage their home or money.   It’s time to give seniors a firewall of qualified protection.

By working with a Certified Senior Advisor® (CSA), every senior gains a “financial bodyguard“.  A Certified Senior Advisor® is a professional with recognized expertise in senior living, daily money management, Medicare as well as other public & private benefits and most importantly, is dedicated to supporting the individual.  A financial caregiver.  A gate keeper.  An advocate.

Part of the magic of a CSA is that they work in concert with the senior’s family, caregivers, legal advisors and financial professionals.  Coordinating distributions, tracking charitable contributions, tax prep, budgeting/cashflow tracking, benefits maximization are just a few of the functions a CSA performs.  All of these activities require the cooperation of other professional efforts and create awareness & transparency that works to the protection & benefit of the senior.

Support your loved ones and clients by exploring how a CSA can contribute to their financial security, peace of mind and longevity.

Continue reading “Protecting Seniors: It’s Time For A Preventative Approach”

A Personal Assistant That Understands The Business of Being a Senior

christian-bowen-Cc10IJDoj78-unsplashThe family home is something to be cherished.  Filled with memories, tradition and comfort, the home is a source of pride and identity for many in the senior community.

As the technology and services of utilities & home maintenance evolve, the overall needs for those aging in place will inevitably change over time too.  Today, there are a host of in-home caregiving options within the healthcare spectrum.  Yet, the business of running and caring for your home & maintaining lifestyle as you or your loved ones age in place are few & far between.  Consider us your home & lifestyle caregivers.

Running a household has so many moving parts – groceries, cleaning, landscaping, utilities, auto care/transportation and on and on.  This just scratches the surface for the senior community – add in the Medicare landscape and managing Social Security, 401k, pension or other investment income……. Being a senior is a full time job these days.

Senior Checks & Balances prides itself on custom project plans for each of our clients.  Providing the security that insures your monthly budget is being met, initiating a “slim down” of household contents, managing the safe/secure disposal of documents, Medicare/insurance management expertise and coordination of your other professional services (CPA, CFA, legal and so forth) – we care for your home and lifestyle.

  • Mail / Bill Management
  • Household budgeting
  • Medicare/insurance enrollments
  • Claims monitoring
  • Home/Vendor Management
  • Prepare for a move or in home services
  • Household organization
  • End of Year Financials – Distributions & Donations Tracking
  • Tax Prep
  • Healthcare spending tracking

Each Certified Senior Advisor® holds expertise that makes managing all the moving parts of your lifestyle & estate easy and stress free.  We’re the personal assistant that understands the business of being a senior.

Senior Checks & Balances serves the Chicagoland area on a one-on-one basis in the privacy & security of your home and DOES NOT require the transfer of any personal information.  Complete security.

Always ask and always be patient

Photo by Gervyn Louis on Unsplash

I was recently reminded of a two fundamentals to working with seniors and must be shared with anyone whose parents or loved ones continue to manage their own home and finances.  1.  Always ask if you can help…… even if they’ve already said no five times.  2.  Never assume it comes as easily as it used to…… even if it is what they did professionally.

Last weekend, my mother in law mentioned to me several times there were a couple of things she needed me to review.  When we finally sat down she pulled out two large ziplocs of mail along with her phone.  She meant business.  First, she handed me her phone and opened an email from Medicare that was a couple weeks old.  She went into a flutter about having to re-register at all her doctors and how were they going to get claims processed and on and on.  I reviewed the email and was quick to discover that it was simply a marketing email hoping you’ll download the CMS/Medicare app – a tool to research what may be covered instead of going to the desktop version of their site.  Their marketing call to action had been interpreted by her as “do this now or risk your coverage”.  This isn’t the first time a marketing email or piece of mail has created panic.

So, what do we all need to remember from this?  First, we live in a marketing laden, fast paced, digital world that is not fundamental to how the baby boomer and senior generations managed their finances & home.  Technology and real time communication has created anxiety and doubt for the baby boomer & senior generations.  Taking the time to sit down and either assist or validate their efforts to maintain their bills and lifestyle isn’t presumptuous – it’s necessary.  Offering your assistance or bringing in a Certified Senior Advisor® will relieve anxiety as well as insure security around identity and savings.

Finally, take conversations at their pace.  While we always expect our parents to be the uber capable individuals that raised us and exceeded professionally, no one escapes cognitive decline.  Everything – from making a sandwich to reviewing a piece of junk mail – is going to take longer to do.  Show respect and patience.  They may have been paying bills and managing money since before you were able to vote.  If you hear them out entirely, you may see a better way to effectively communicate and remedy their concern.  Being helpful or offering advice doesn’t mean you should be taking away their autonomy.  Patience is a virtue.

Managing Your Lifestyle Wherever It May Take You

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Photo by James Hose Jr on Unsplash

The challenges of Financial Caregiving vary with each client relationship. From the rigors of a family fighting the good fight of cognitive decline, managing the shutdown and end of life services for a family who have lost a loved one or simply assisting someone with their daily money management, the Advisors of Senior Checks & Balances, Inc. leverage their expert knowledge of being a senior in today’s world to create comfort and assurance.

The stand out moment of the week centered around those that are managing multiple households. The “dream” for many seniors is to be a Snowbird – split time between the family home during the fairer months and then head to a warmer climate for winter. As with anything related to home and financial management, that’s easier said than done. The details of temporarily moving your primary residence pile up quickly and the likelihood of something falling through the cracks will increase.  Where is the mail going? Who is paying the bills for home/utilities? Medical files – what needs to be taking along? Who is checking on the house during the winter? Transportation? End of year distributions & then tax season – what paperwork needs to come along? And on and on……

As Senior Checks & Balances Advisors advocate with almost all activities, it’s never too soon to start planning. So, with a client’s impending departure in October to their home in Florida for a seven month stay, the action plan and checklists are in high drive. First and foremost, understanding the manner in which our clients wants to manage their affairs is the Advisor’s priority. With that, the action plan takes shape and as departure day approaches, there are little to no surprises.

In this instance, the SCB Advisor was able to assist the family crete the following action plan and source all related services at the best price & with reliable professionals:

  1. The car – sourced an insured & bonded driver to transport the car directly to their home in Florida.
  2. The locked trunk will be pre-packed with clothing & belongings so the family will not be bothered with extensive luggage on their flight.
  3. Two secure boxes of necessary paperwork & medical records will be shipped down three days in advance of their arrival – the “Traveling Desk” as we call it.
  4. “The Desk” set to be received and signed for by verified third party for security purposes in anticipation of their arrival.
  5. Medical appointments & prescriptions – necessary and ongoing treatment is required between locales. All doctor’s appointments have been secured in advanced in FL to insure no lapse in treatments. Further, prescriptions will be available at the local pharmacy.
  6. Who’s checking on the house while they’re gone? The SCB Advisor will make weekly visits to the home to insure all is well and no mail has been erroneously delivered.
  7. If a weather event should occur, the Advisor will make an unscheduled visit.
  8.  Regular Financial Activities – The SCB Advisor will continue to monitor the bills and credit cards online but will also make sure that all other professionals are working in concert at critical times throughout the year.
  9. Landscaping – Fall and spring clean up at the house
  10. Housekeeping – Deep dive cleaning after their departure to FL and then prior to their return
  11. Repairs – a portion of the roof needs to be replaced. The SCB Advisor will oversee this project while they’re away.
  12. Medicare Enrollments – There’s been a change to prescriptions over the past year. With Open Enrollment starting on 10/15, the SCB Advisor will do an evaluation to insure that their Medicare D program is best suited for their needs.
  13. Wealth Management & CPA – The business of being a senior never ends….. The SCB Advisor will facilitate the following communications:
  14. November/December – On advice of the family CPA, advise the family Wealth Manager how much will need to be earmarked for taxes & track all charitable giving to maximize returns
  15. Jan – April – Insure all appropriate documentation is collected and supplied to the family CPA for tax filing. (This timeline may differ based on individual filings.)

So, is your head reeling with all the details of what is supposed to be a relaxing and recuperative change of scenery? Not only it is paramount that each of these details are attended to in a timely fashion, it is vital that they’re done accurately and with the highest level of professional advice. For this family, their SCB Advisor is their in house professional on all things senior living as well as concierge assistant allowing them to age in place – be it, Chicago or Florida.

What Can I Do to Help My Elderly Loved Ones with Their Finances?

Taking control of your parents’ finances can be a difficult matter for the entire family. It can be tough for a person to admit that they need help with their finances, especially when the signs are clear. If they are not keeping up with bill payment, are confused about their statements, or are making poor financial decisions, then it is time to intervene. In any event, you should be gentle when bringing up this topic.

Here are some important tips for helping your elderly parents with their finances. This checklist can help create a productive conversation & a safety net around the finances of elderly parents. Also important is to understand what areas to focus on, which can help ease this difficult situation.

1. Process Your Feelings Before Talking to Your Parent

Talking to your parents about their financial situation and healthcare wishes can be emotionally draining for everyone involved. Before you discuss their financial matters, process your feelings. How do you feel? Do you feel anxious? Do you feel uncomfortable? Are you upset? Know that the emotion you’re feeling is a healthy response. By addressing those feelings to yourself, you’re more likely to remain calm during that conversation.

2. Trust Your Parent’s Financial Decisions

If your parent is still able to manage their daily finances, then respect their financial decisions. Offer help when needed instead of taking over completely. They’ll appreciate your help more when you take a step back. They’re also more likely to accept help since they know you won’t take their control away.

If your parent suffers from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, then you should gain control over their finances. Regardless of their cognitive state, allowing them feel as if they still have some control, even if they’re having trouble managing their money. Working with your parents can ensure that you are on the same page. They’ll better understand you’re looking out for their best interests.

3. Get Their Documents in Order

In the event of an emergency, you’ll need immediate access to your parents’ documents. This can assure the safety and security of their private documents if they’re not able to manage their financial situation themselves. They may wonder why you need access to these documents, so inform them that you’ll just use them in emergency situations. You’ll need access to bank and brokerage statements, home mortgage or reverse mortgage, insurance policies, pension records, safe deposit boxes, Social Security payments, wills and powers of attorney.

4. Get Access to Their Financial Accounts

You’ll have to set aside time to plan this in advance since it takes a lot of time and paperwork. Banks and financial institutions have rules in place about who has access to a bank account, and most of them require a copy of a Power of Attorney. In order to write checks for your parents or withdraw money from their account, you should become a joint account owner.

5. Keep Financial Conversations Brief

If your parents have agreed to a financial discussion, keep the conversation to a minimum of 30 minutes. Resist the urge to overload them with questions. One or two questions per topic should be the max. Allow your parents time to digest what you said so they can respond accordingly. This allows everyone to focus on one subject at a time. Plus, it keeps everyone calm, level-headed, and focused.

6. Allow Your Parent Control Whenever Possible

Aging can cause a loved one to lose control of their mental or physical health. Older parents are aware that they’ll need more help and support over time and some are  not ready for this reality. When you’re having a financial conversation with your parents, offer to help whenever necessary. You’re showing them that you’re there to help them when they feel the need. When the time does come, they’ll be at ease knowing you’re managing their finances accordingly.

7. Prepare for Their Future

If your parents don’t have an estate or will prepare, then now is the time to book an appointment with a lawyer and get the process started. These documents will protect their physical and financial assets from probate and document their wishes.  This is also a good time to create other legal documents prepared such as a living will and Power of Attorney. These documents will be your guide to their financial & medical wishes, especially during a health crisis.