Protecting Older Investors
Betsy looked down at my daughter’s dachshund puppy, a dog she had seen a dozen times over the past few months, and asked if he was mine.
“Of course. You remember Reggie, don’t you?” I said.
Betsy smiled and nodded her head. I felt uneasy about our exchange, but chalked it up as forgetfulness on her part.
In the following months I would find Betsy sitting in the lobby of our apartment building waiting for her sister. Only she’d be waiting for hours and her sister would never come. Then Betsy started asking, “Do you live here? Have we met?”
What I was bearing witness to made me uncomfortable and incredibly concerned.
This month, IRI held the second annual Older Investors Summit to discuss issues of dementia and diminished capacity in seniors. After hearing from medical professionals, leading scholars, and industry executives, I had a better understanding of the responsibility we all have to protect the elderly. Part of that responsibility, especially as financial professionals, is to know the facts.
One in three seniors dies with dementia, yet this group holds 70 percent of personal wealth in the US. More often than not, financial elder abuse is committed by a close family member, but seniors fall for “romance” and third party scams more than you would think. Ten thousand Americans turn 65 every day and as the brain ages, the first ability to be impaired is managing money. This is a public health issue.
I found myself checking in on Betsy whenever I could and had my daughter do the same. I convinced myself that the doorman must be watching over her, and certainly I couldn’t be the only person in Betsy’s life concerned about her well-being. But what I heard at the Older Investors Summit is that Betsy might not have anyone in her life except me, her neighbor and friendly acquaintance, and even though it is a difficult decision, Adult Protective Services exist to help in these situations. Calling for a wellness check-in might make the all difference in a fraudulent or life-threatening circumstance.
Although we may not be able to prevent the brain from aging—it is an inevitable part of getting older—we can, as an industry and a country, step up and support the efforts to address it. As financial professionals we are in a unique position to help motivate positive action.
There are a variety of thing you can do to support older investors. Have a watchful eye over your clients, as they may start to make inadvisable decisions that you cannot stop. Start the uncomfortable conversation of diminished capacity early on in your relationship, because it’s in your client’s best interest to consider this possibility. Make a wellness call if you’re concerned about a client’s cognitive ability. Never fire a client because they suffer from diminished cognitive capacity—it is almost certain that they will fall victim to elder fraud without you. Support initiatives in your own firm to continue research in this area so we can all continue providing older investor resources to financial advisors.
There are many Americans like Betsy who suffer from diminished capacity, dementia and Alzheimer’s. Be at the forefront of the charge to protect them. We owe it to our aging family members, friends, neighbors and clients.
Visit the IRI Older Investors Resource center here.