Soon after she moved> into her first home at the age of about 28, Diane Pearson got a phone call from the local cemetery, asking about her end-of-life plans. After she mentioned her age, the caller said, I m sorry to have wasted your time, and hung up. Pearson says she immediately thought to herself, 28-year-olds do die.
Now a certified financial planner with Legend Financial Advisors in Pittsburgh, Pearson today makes a point of discussing end of life issues with clients, often before the thought has crossed their mind. It s never too soon to start planning for future needs, she says. Aging is inevitable, and with age come new financial risks beyond simple market volatility. Older adults are frequent victims of financial scams. A recent Investor Protection Trust survey found that one out of five people over 65 have already been the victim of a financial fraud.
Those who aren t worried about fraud may fret about becoming less financially independent over time. The same survey found that 36% of adults over 65 are worried they ll become less able to handle their finances in the future and four out of ten adults with parents in that age group worry about their parents financial health.
Here are three tips for anyone who wants to start protecting themselves against financial trouble later in life:
Like doctors, financial professionals too often only see clients when they re already in crisis, says Eleanor Blayney, the consumer advocate for the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards and the author of Women s Worth: Finding Your Financial Confidence. Planning should start long before there s any question of needing a family member or trusted professional to step in to make financial or medical decisions, Blayney says.
For couples, if one partner has traditionally taken charge of household finances, it s important for the other person to get educated and start building relationships with attorneys, financial planners, and other professionals, she says. The best time for planning to be single is when you re not, Blayney says.
Because older adults can be so vulnerable to scams, it s crucial to carefully vet any professional who could eventually be in the position of making financial decisions on a saver s behalf. Be sure that anyone placed in that position of trust is held to a fiduciary standard, as certified financial planners are. Finding a professional to help manage finances later in life can be a very difficult and at times dangerous decision, Blayney says.
Money can be a taboo topic in many families. Parents should start talking about money and financial plans with their kids early on, says Kyra Morris, a certified financial planner and the president of Morris Financial Concepts in Mount Pleasant, S.C. Parents can share their budgets and financial plans with their children and even allow a financial planner or accountant to share planning documents with those children, Morris says. Bringing a family member or friend along to meetings with a financial professional could also help someone who s worried about asking the right questions or absorbing a complicated plan, Blayney says.
Conversations about money shouldn t just be about numbers, Morris says. It s not just about being frugal, it s about identifying the things that are really meaningful to you that you spend money on, she says. Sharing those values with children can help an older adult ensure that if and when children do start helping with financial decisions, they understand what kinds of spending are most important, Morris says.
Adult children or other responsible family members should know key professionals working with an older adult, and vice versa, Pearson says. A financial planner, for example, will want to know who to call if they see warning signs that suggest an aging client is having trouble making sound decisions, Morris says. When we work with clients that are aging, we try and establish that relationship early, so before it becomes an issue we get to know family members and share what s going on, she says.
In particular, one friend or family member should have power of attorney in case it s necessary for someone to step in and make financial decisions, Blayney says. An estate-planning lawyer can easily set up a document that covers this situation but the designated family member should be consulted first, and connected with the relevant professional advisers, Blayney says.
Those who aren t comfortable involving family members in financial decisions should make connections among different advisers they re working with accountants, attorneys and so on, Morris says.