Scams are Thriving

In one month, I have had two clients click a pop-up on their computer, call the number posted and give their checking account and routing numbers / online passcode to their bank to the scammer on the other end of the call. Thankfully, neither of them resulted in any losses, but the amount of work created has been almost overwhelming.

I have told both my clients and their families that the computer does pose an increased risk to becoming a fraud victim. The science tells us that as we age, we become MORE trusting.

Both clients have some cognitive impairment. One immediately recognized her mistake and called the bank, but the other one we thankfully walked in to see the person controlling the computer and immediately turned it off.

We have a lot of people that are sitting along in their homes for longer periods of time and looking to find ways to entertain themselves. In addition to isolation being unhealthy, now it seems the accompanying boredom has made older adults ripe for engagement.

If you have a loved one you are worried about, is there a way to contact their bank to be alerted when a new bill payee is added to the account? Can you receive alerts if a transfer is requested?

Managing the purpose and meaning of handling your finances with the risk of having access to money is a fine line.

The one option that seems to help as someone is getting more forgetful and becoming a greater risk is to set up a sister account that includes a check book and only maintains a small balance. For many clients, we work with them to move money to the account when they write a larger check, but are also minimizing the risk of loss. Often, they don’t even know it is a different account and just share the spending with us when we call and visit.

Are you all seeing this increase?

Have you had any success with other options?

The best offense if a good defense. Practiced.

Two things you can do today if no power of attorney is in place.

Please know that I am not a lawyer, but was a caregiver to my parents for over five years and offer this advice as a practical end-around to frustrations I faced trying to use the legal tools to help them.

While my parents listed me on their power of attorney, I had a devil of a time getting banks, insurance companies, and financial services firms to recognize it. It was less than 2 years old and Virginia has a statute in place that frees them of liability if they do recognize it (my simple non-lawyer explanation).

There are simple ways to set up a safety net
for loved ones.

Instead of spending more hours fighting them (they received it but then didn’t do anything and then I would languish in their phone trees on hold), I worked with my parents to set up online access. In most cases I could do most things for them online.

As we enter this next phase of novel coronovirus and state and federal mandates, I am worried for the large numbers of older adults who don’t have someone who can step in and pay bills should they become sick.

Some things you can do today to prepare include:

  1. Go to the bank with your loved one, and sign their power of attorney. It will put you on the account immediately. They may also offer to add you to the account, but this could be an issue since then you become a “joint account holder” that brings other possible complications and risks.
  2. Set up online access to the account. You can do many things with online access and at minimum it will allow you to monitor the account or step in and help pay bills if your loved ones needs help.

It’s a shame that so many American’s do not have powers of attorney (POA) in place. I believe it should be a right of passage upon turning 18 to set up your first POAs. I did pay for my son to set up a Durable Power of Attorney, and a Medical Power of Attorney for his 18th birthday. I do hope I never have the cause to use them.

We are in strange times. I hope this gives you some ideas of how you can help should you need to step in and help a loved one who doesn’t have their estate plans in place.

If you have the time, now is a GREAT TIME to create POAs, and get a Will in place and have a discussion about the finances. To find a local elder care attorney, you can visit the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. Recommended.

Simple Ways to Protect Finances.

While likely under-reported, the National Council on Aging estimates elder financial abuse and fraud costs to older Americans range from $2.9 billion to $36.5 billion annually. Older American’s that have been abused have a 300% higher risk of death when compared to those who have not been mistreated.

After caring for two parents with dementia, I remind myself how much the checkbook meant to my mother. She had always managed the household finances and pointing out to her that she was failing to manage the finances was something that needed to be left unsaid. If you are concerned, first work with the person to support their efforts before suggesting they hand over the checkbook and finances. Some easy ways to help may be:

  • Create a monthly schedule of bills and maintenance due dates
  • Log in to the banking websites and credit card sites to monitor spending and confirm no fraudulent or suspicious transactions and fill in the bill pay gaps
  • Set up a checking account they can use that has a minimal balance to keep in their purse or wallet for writing checks and use a different account for bill pay needs

My mother kept losing her purse that included her checkbook. So dealing with that was very time consuming. My Dad recognized this and took me to the bank to set up a new checking account for my Mom. We funded it as she needed money but no longer had to worry that the account that received their retirement funds and paid for the mortgage was at risk. We automated many of the home bills (mortgage, utilities) and I would monitor the spending behind the scenes.

Utimately, I wanted to help but not be invasive or diminish my parent’s ability to manage their finances.

Some other tools to consider include:

  • Get a tile and insert it into the wallet so you can easily find it if it get’s misplaced. You can use their online portal to track it’s location.  
  • Set up a TrueLink card. It is basically a pre-funded credit card where you can set up limits on how much can be charged as well as products and services that it won’t fund. There is a fee for it, but the small expense is worth the money it will most likely save in potential losses.

If you have a variety of personal care assistants coming into the home, or your loved one is in a community, I hope you will consider some of these options.

I have worked with families both at home and living in communities that have been a victim of caregiver exploitation. One got my client to write her a small check, one purchased some face cream for my client and asked her for repayment of $85, and another apparently kept asking for gas money. Most agencies and communities require their caregivers agree to never accept money or gifts from clients. Should a client give them money, it needs to be reported to the community or agency. In one month, I had to report three caregivers for violating this condition of employment. Sadly, I know they will just turn up at another agency.

Managing the finances for many may be one of the few remaining freedoms that offer a sense of control. Some are giving up car keys, volunteer activities they love, hobbies they can no longer maintain and the checkbook can offer an empowered sense of self.

If you have been diagnosed, or are a family member and unable to do this for your loved one, you can contact a Daily Money Manager who can fill this roll.

With billions at risk, take some time to ensure someone is minding the finances. I hope these options help you and your loved ones. Suggested.

Just because I’m having trouble with my short-term memory doesn’t make it OK to exclude me from discussions about me

I’m writing this post recognizing that I’m really kinda angry. I know I can get a little “righteous” but I’m seeing families work around their loved ones instead of with them.

I know often, it’s easier to to just do things for someone. Please imagine how you would feel if you suddenly found yourself on the outside when choices about your health and finances were made for you?

Maybe you had a discussion about the topic, but for someone with short-term memory loss they won’t remember that, so are there other ways to help include and remind them of the discussion and decisions made? A notebook, email or texts?

I’m working with a new client and she told me she went to the bank to get a copy of her last statement and her daughter and POA had changed her statements to paperless. She knows she can’t recall the amount of money in the bank and is having trouble managing the finances, but I could only imagine how awful it would make me feel if my loved ones were doing this around me. To be fair, they may have had the discussion and she didn’t remember. However, she was expressing how frustrating it was to be left out. She can still make good decisions and had managed to care for all these things for more than five decades. She wants her daughter to help her do it, not take it away from her and manage it for her. Short-term memory loss on it’s own doesn’t mean you can’t make good decisions or understand their consequences.

Don’t discount your loved ones ability. It is their life and if you love and respect them, assisting them when they need help navigating difficult choices is how you can show it.

I know I didn’t do this well when I started to help my parents. However, now that I have worked with so many families and individuals with varying stages of mild cognitive impairment and diagnosed dementia’s, I see a how devastating it can be to suddenly lose so much for the individual with a memory issue.

For those individuals just starting out, I always talk about us working in tandem. I will help with them organize and schedule, and they will review the bills and sign the checks. Usually, by the end of our first meeting they are breathing a sigh of relief. They see they are still involved and have control, and now have help to manage the components of paying their bills that was challenging.

You can apply this to the scheduling of medical appointments and follow ups as well.

Walk alongside, support and give your loved ones the opportunity to be involved. You might be surprised how much better things can progress when you do it together instead of “for them”. Advocated.

There is a Statute of Limitations on IRS Refunds

timemoneyIt physically pains me to find someone, through oversight or because of overwhelming life events, failed to do what was needed to get the refund to which they were entitled to receive from the IRS.

I just learned this when a client was told by the IRS that the 2014 and 2015 returns she eventually filed were submitted too late to allow her to receive the nearly $12,000 she was entitled to receive. She thought her life partner had filed these when we started working together. Unfortunately, he never did file them or ask for an extension.

According to I.R.C. Section 6511(a) “Claim must be filed within 3 years from the time the return was filed or 2 years from the time the tax was paid, whichever of such periods expires the later, or if no return was filed by the taxpayer, within 2 years from the time the tax was paid.”  There are things like extension requests that help your timing. Check with an accountant to learn more about this if you might be in this boat.

At least half of the families I have worked with find out that taxes didn’t get filed. The early signs of dementia are subtle and the individual may believe they are doing all the right things. It usually takes a couple big financial mistakes before people realize their loved one is unable to really manage their financial affairs.

If you are not sure if the taxes have been addressed, you can request transcripts from the IRS here.

Caring for a loved one can be overwhelming. If you need some help looking into this and no one is able to help, you could find a local Daily Money Manager who can help out. If you have a lot of medical expenses, the few hundred dollars it might take to hire them to help will more than be repaid when you receive your refund. If you can’t find one in your area, let me know. There are several members of my team that can assist with this remotely.  Recommended. 

 

 

Visit Missing Money – Healthy Aging Habit 26

money

I found $100 on Missing Money in my name last year. It was a refund check from a utility that never made it to my mailbox. Some of the unclaimed money could be something you never knew you were entitled to receive.

I recommend visiting this site annually for you and your loved ones since it is constantly being updated. I can take years for accounts to go dormant.

Follow these steps:

  • Visit MissingMoney.com
  • Put in your name (or the name of a loved one) and “Start Your Search”
  • Scroll to find the results and initiate the Claim. See the example below for what you should look for. You will have to scroll down past Ads to find the results. The “Claim” button will take you to the state or province website to initiate your claim.
missingmoneyclaim

Please know that you should NEVER have to pay to get your own money so if you are being asked to give a credit card or agree to a percentage of the money, you have ended up on the wrong site. You should never have to pay anyone to get back your own money.

You should also not find that anything is downloading from this site to your computer. If you are prompted, you have clicked on an Ad instead of finding the Claim button.

If and when you find some money – please tell me!  I love to hear all the stories of those that have done this and found money they never knew they were entitled to receive. Whether it is this your or a future year becuase you have continued this Health Aging Habit. Encouraged.

Talk to your Children about your Healthy Aging Choices and Listen to What They Say – Habit #22

funnyquotesagingparent

As an adult child that lived through caregiving for two parents over 5 years, and as a parent of two children, I have been very open about how I believe families should function in terms of support and care.

My parents planned well thinking that they would never “be a burden” to their children. However, when they both ended up with dementia, a family member needed to be intimately involved in their care and well-being. The hard part for me was that my parents firmly believed they never needed any help and half of my caregiving battle was managing around their inability to see how they were failing.

As my children grow and one now has flown the coop, I plan to be open with them when it comes to discussions about our care and well-being. If and when they are managing their own careers and raising their own children, I will make sure to regularly check in to listen to them on how and if they could help. I want them to have their lives, but I do also hope that I can rely on them to at least have general oversight if my husband and I should we need it. There are options for us if they can’t help.

I know that I can hire specialists to help with the day to day needs. I don’t expect my kids to do it for me. But I also know that family knows best and would prefer if one or both of my children would be a POA or Trustee for us when they are ready to step into that role.

What I find most interesting is how many adults with children over 30 are reporting that their kids won’t listen to them when they try to share their plans or discuss their finances. Maybe for many it feels like a weaponized conversation about inheritance or their adult children just aren’t ready to have it.  What I do know is that you better have had this conversation with the people you are counting on to help you before the help is needed. Experienced.

Organize your Finances and Accounts – Healthy Habit #19

Everyone who has had to step in and help a loved one knows how difficult it is to make sense of someone else’s finances.

Most couples can remember a time when they needed to access an account but were unable to because it was in the other person’s name. The phone and utility companies don’t care if you are married or on the home title or mortgage.

It will take some time and organization to make it easy for someone to access, but the reality is that for every adult I have worked with, all of your important information can fit into a 2” ring binder. Filing cabinets become organized dumping grounds for our personal papers and most people will admit they often have trouble finding their own information in the system they set up for themselves.

You can download a free guide to walk you through how to organize your binder here. If you want a workbook that will walk you through this process you can find it on Amazon (it’s less than $17).

Having it organized will save you time, and once it’s done, it’s easy to stay on top of the organization. One of the most important things you can do, is to create a simple roadmap of your finances. Many households have multiple bank accounts and often those people who would step in to help don’t know which account the income drops into and which account is step up to pay the mortgage, long-term care insurance, or even auto-pay utilities or other services on which you rely. Here is a simple example:

financialMap

It’s very basic, but can easily provide you with an easy way to understand your account set up and the interconnections between your financial assets.

Getting this done will benefit you now by saving you time in the long-run, and benefit you later if someone does need to step in and help you.

I started doing this organization when I was caring for my parents. It took me over a year to get a handle on all of the accounts and finances. I wanted to make sure that when my siblings visited, they could easily step in to help me. It was the origin of my business MemoryBanc. I  hope you will access the free resources to set up a system that will benefit you and your family. Shared.

Get Powers of Attorney and Share Them – Healthy Habit 17

poa

If I could make one thing happen, my wish would be for all Americans to have a ritual of putting into place powers of attorney when they legally become an adult. If we had the understanding that should something happen to us whether we are 18 or 80, these documents will allow someone to help.

My son received these for his 18th birthday. Initially, I was most worried about being able to talk to a doctor if he got hurt. As an athlete I knew he would be traveling with his team and wanted to make sure I could get answers from the doctor if he got injured on his travels.

However, what scared me more was how could we help if something happened to him after college and he was living on his own. I’ve come across families that had to step in to help their adult children and were totally unprepared and unable to help.

If this was just a standard rite of entering adulthood, I think we would all have better habits of managing our lives and information so that someone could help us if we needed it. We also wouldn’t make getting these things in place something you do when you get older since every adult should have these.

I’m frustrated that most American’s equate creating an Estate Plan with end of life wishes. A good Estate Plan includes both financial and medical powers of attorney, beneficiary designations, end of life wishes, a Will and maybe a Trust. When I work with families most of them believe they are all set because they have done their estate plans. When I ask them who is the power of attorney and if they have a copy of the document, I’m never surprised when “no” is the answer. These also aren’t once and done tools. You will need to update them over your lifetime.

For those of you caring for a loved one already, you know how precious, valuable, and necessary the power of attorney is. If you don’t have these documents, please know that someone diagnosed with dementia may still have decisional capacity. Ask their doctor to validate this and get these documents into place.

Your plans won’t help you if the people that would step in to help don’t know about them or where they are.  So I hope you will make it a habit to confirm and check in with those you have named as power of attorney annually. Hoped. 

Review Your Credit Card Charges Every Month – Healthy Habit 16

creditcardstatement

Credit card fraud where a card is not present for the transaction was $4.57 billion in 2016 and increasing every year. Cyber pickpockets have made checking your statement monthly a necessity of being a credit card holder. I have set up an alert on my card so that every time it is used, I get a text notice.

The nonprofit Merchant Risk Council estimates that 80 percent of credit cards in people’s wallets have been compromised.  From a skimmer at the gas station to malware on a merchant card site to the data breach at Equifax – assume your card information has been exposed to criminals.

In the past few years, I have been able to save clients thousands of dollars in the first few months by just reviewing their past credit card statements. From monthly charges for services they don’t recognize or use, to purchases they never made but never reported. I shiver at the suggestion of setting up a credit card on an automated payment plan.

That automated system continues to roll and too often no one is minding the store. No matter what your financial resources, most of us would be upset to know we are paying for things we don’t use or never received. Warned.

Giving Back the Checkbook

You know the feeling of helplessness when you don’t have any cash in your pocket and the thing you want requires cash? Well imagine if your loved ones took away your ability to buy things when you feel like you are making good choices.

In my job as a Daily Money Manager, I work for individuals who have usually been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment or even a specific form of dementia. Usually, at the request of a family member they call and invite me to come meet. They don’t understand why the family is concerned.

I start by asking them how they feel things are going. The response is usually more of “I am managing” and then they usually confess they know they have made “a few over/under payments.” I explain how my job is to help them feel confident in their bill payments and cash flow management. Ultimately, I work to help them feel empowered by continuing to pay bills together.

If I see there is a big concern over exposure to fraud or predatory service providers, I will set up a new checking account. It allows the individual to have a checkbook but the amount of money that is at risk is limited to the money in the account. NOTE: Do not set up overdraft protection but allow the checks to bounce.

A second option is the TrueLink Card. It is basically a funded gift card that you can apply protections to like turning off the ability to charge fees for jewelry, liquor, or phone charges (there are over 20 categories you can tweak). You can see what has been purchased. It does have some complications and limitations as I have seen. One client has had the card fail when he was trying to buy a watch battery (deemed as jewelry) as well as was not able to get his favorite local cheese at the Farmer’s Market because they were using a portable pay device (deemed as a phone charge). I have been able to customize the options and pre-approve that favorite cheese vendor, but when he is at the market, he needs the card to work and it doesn’t always.

At the end of the day, what we want is for our loved one to have meaning and purpose and often, taking away the money can strip them of some independence they deserve.

Is there a way for you to give back that power to a loved one and help them regain a sense of self? Hoped.