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  • Archive for 2017

    How To Talk to Older Adults About Financial Abuse

    Wednesday, June 28th, 2017

    hand in retirement jar

    June is an important month for raising awareness about  financial elder abuse. In fact, June 15th is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day , when organizations around the world focus their resources on highlighting the issue of elder abuse and working to prevent it. Part of WISER’s mission is to protect older Americans from financial fraud and abuse.

    One of the most common forms of elder abuse is financial elder abuse—when older people are taken advantage of financially. Scam artists prey on retirees who may have amassed large amounts of savings, but have dwindling mental faculties, meaning they are less likely to stop or report the crime. Although people often think of con men as smooth, fast-talking strangers, perpetrators are frequently family, friends or neighbors, who abuse the trust of the victim. Especially troubling, considering they are already at a disadvantage financially, is the fact that women are twice as likely as men to be the victims of senior financial abuse.

    If you suspect that an older person in your life is being victimized by a financial scammer, it is important to take action immediately. If there is physical danger, call 911. If it is not an immediate emergency, contact your state’s Adult Protective Services.

    Whether you suspect they may be a victim or not, it is important to talk to older people in your life about financial elder abuse. It can be challenging to do so because oftentimes, you may be talking to an authority figure or someone who is used to teaching you about things, not vice versa (for example, a parent). The best way to approach the difficult task is to divide it into three parts. First, present the facts. Second, listen to what they have to say. Third, make a plan. Most importantly of all, have the conversation as you would with a friend or peer. Talking down to older adults can be insulting to the senior and cause people to tune out your advice, no matter how important or well-meaning it is.

    1. Present the Facts

    Explain how common elder abuse is: studies estimate annual financial loss nationwide to be around $2.9 billion. For that reason, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. It truly could happen to anyone. Most victims are between the ages of 80 and 89, live alone, and require some sort of help with either health care or home maintenance. Women are twice as likely as men to be victimized. The perpetrators are most frequently strangers (51% of the time), but it is also common for them to be family, friends or neighbors (34% of the time). For that reason, always be vigilant about giving away money, regardless of whom it is going to. Sixty percent of perpetrators are men. There are many different types of senior financial abuse, but the most common are telemarketing and internet fraud, identity theft and credit card fraud, the grandparent scam (pretending to be a grandchild in order to convince the senior to wire money), sweepstakes and lottery scams, and investment schemes and fraud. For more information on these types of scams and what they look and sound like, check out WISER’s fact sheet on the topic.

    By first laying out out the facts in a non-judgmental tone, the older people in your life will understand this is an issue we all need to be prepared for, as well as able to consider whether they may potentially have been victimized already.

    2. Listen

    After making sure the older person in your life understands what financial abuse is, the next step is to listen. Who have they interacted with recently? Some people are embarrassed to admit they may have been scammed, so a kind, understanding ear is important.

    3. Make a Plan

    The third and final step is to make a plan to protect against future abuse. Think hard about who has access to financial accounts. Remember to never turn cash over to anyone and be skeptical about anyone asking you to wire money. Remove your name from solicitation lists,  and if someone comes to you asking for money or with an offer, say you need time to consider. If pressure tactics are used (“you must do this now”), then be even more skeptical of its legitimacy. For more tips, see WISER’s fact sheet on protecting your income.

    If someone thinks he or she may have been the victim of abuse, contact your state’s Adult Protective Services, and stick around as he or she talks to their representatives.

    If you are wondering whether it is the right time to start having this conversation, know that it is never too early. Visit WISER’s financial elder abuse resource page for more information.

    Plan Ahead and Spend Smart to “Age Out Loud”

    Thursday, May 25th, 2017

    logo OAM 2


    May is Older Americans Month. Led by the Administration for Community Living and the Administration on Aging, WISER joins with organizations across the country to celebrate older Americans and their unique contributions to society. This month’s theme is Age Out Loud.

    “Age Out Loud” means something different for everyone. For some, it might mean traveling to new countries upon retirement. For others, it might mean participating in social activities, like sports leagues, book clubs, or going out to dinner. It might mean spending quality time with loved ones, volunteering or engaging in community or civic events.

    Regardless of how you define aging out loud, there is a common truth to doing so: you want options about how you’ll live, where you’ll live, who you’ll live with and what kind of care you’ll receive. You’ll want the freedom to make choices. Being able to choose what’s best for you in retirement requires planning ahead and saving.

    If you are already retired, being able to age out loud in the future also means understanding your resources and how best to use them. First, take stock of your sources of income. Oftentimes, those include Social Security and employer-sponsored retirement plans–like a pension or 401(k).

    Once you take stock of your sources of income and their values, consider your spending needs, and how they are likely to change as your retirement goes on. Take into account factors like inflation, taxes, your likelihood of living many years, how you plan to invest and spend your assets, and whether you plan to leave anything to your heirs. It is difficult to know how long your retirement will last, but there are predictions available based on how old you currently are. If you turned 65 in 2005, there is about a 50 percent chance that you will live until at least age 85. It is also difficult to know how much your medical care and insurance will cost during insurance. The federal Medicare program covers almost all Americans, but is unlikely to cover all of your medical needs.

    Don’t just plan for the day you retire- plan for the days, months, years and even decades that may follow. Aging Out Loud, whatever that means to you, demands it.

    Here’s Why Financial Literacy Is For Everyone

    Thursday, April 20th, 2017

    little blog pictureApril is Financial Literacy Month.

    “Financial Literacy” is a somewhat new term and trend in the United States, and for that reason, some find it off-putting and discouraging. Don’t let the fancy phrasing scare you, though. The reality is, financial literacy simply means knowledge about money and savings. Even though most of us didn’t learn the basics of financial knowledge in an educational setting (hopefully that will change in the future!), important, life-changing saving information is easily within reach.

    In fact, understanding of the importance of financially literacy only became widespread in the past fifteen years or so. In 2002, the U.S. Department of Treasury created the Office of Financial Education as a way to organize its efforts in the area. The next year, Congress passed the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions (FACT) Act, which established the Financial Literacy and Education Commission, a group that later published a “National Strategy on Financial Literacy.”

    That means that, hopefully, financial education will become a standard and required part of education. However, just because it wasn’t something you learned about in school doesn’t mean you cannot become extremely knowledgeable on investing, saving, retirement and other financial topics. It is important for everyone to educate themselves about their finances, but know that you don’t need to be a financial expert to make smart decisions. Some basic information can go a long way.

    In particular, it is important to know what you should be doing at every stage of life to make sure you are on track financially and preparing for long term financial security. WISER’s “7 Life Defining Financial Decisions” booklet breaks down key topics into stages and explains how to approach each one.

    For example, when it comes to jobs and careers, when taking a job, consider not only salary but also benefits. There are two basic kinds of employer-sponsored pension plans: defined benefit and defined contribution plans. When leaving a job, it is important to consider that changing jobs, even for higher pay, can cost you a bundle in lost benefits and retirement income. If at some point in your life you decide to stay home full time, think through the family finances, including retirement planning. Where there are large upsides, you will lose compensation, benefits, job skills and contacts if you leave work completely.

    The booklet offers more advice on financial decision-making at every stage of life. By focusing on life stages and basic information, financial literacy is within reach for everyone.


    About Us

    WISER is a nonprofit organization that works to help women, educators and policymakers understand the important issues surrounding women's retirement income. WISER creates a variety of consumer publications including fact sheets, booklets and a quarterly newsletter that explain in easy-to-understand language the complex issues surrounding Social Security, divorce, pay equity, pensions, savings and investments, banking, home-ownership, long-term care and disability insurance.

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