Dorothy Luck was enjoying her golden years until an unexpected legal dispute threatened her $1 million investment portfolio.
A distant relative brought guardianship proceedings against the 87-year-old widow and control of her money was eventually wrested. Luck started investing in the 1980s with $10,000, but now receives monthly disbursements from the bank that took control of her portfolio with a court order.
“I had a million dollars cash invested with Edward Jones that vanished after a vice president of trust from Frost Bank was appointed ad litem by a county judge,” Luck said in an interview. "It boils down to greed, selfishness and envy."
Luck is among the 21 percent of older adults who are concerned about protecting themselves from financial scams and the 43 percent of professionals who share this concern, according to the 2015 United States of Aging Survey conducted by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a), National Council on Aging (NCOA) and United Healthcare.
“Professionals in the field who see seniors struggling the most are reporting that the golden years are not so golden for far too many individuals,” said Ramsey Alwin, vice president of economic security with the NCOA, based in Washington, D.C. “It’s an economic justice and human rights issue.”
Part of the problem is the denial that exists around what getting older means.
“People want to age on their own terms, but it’s inevitable that they will become more vulnerable,” Alwin told Financial Advisor magazine. “There can be long good-byes that are painful due to chronic conditions rather than terminal issues.”
Nationwide, financial advisors are doing their best to assist clients who may be unaware what awaits them as they retire.
When Larry Rosenthal comes across an aging client who may be deteriorating mentally or physically but is resistant to advanced planning, he tries to enlist the help of their adult children, but not without contacting compliance and requesting the client’s permission.
“It has to do with the client’s situation and not so much with age,” Rosenthal said. “Some clients don’t want their kids to know about their money until after death. In that case, I make sure everything is as tax efficient as possible and that beneficiary documents are lined up in the way they want.”
Once adult children are on board, Rosenthal often recommends linking together the aging client’s bank account through e-money advisor.
“This way both the client’s adult children and I can review the spending of the aging client who may be vulnerable because their physical or mental health is in decline,” said Rosenthal, whose financial advisory practice is in Virginia.
With some 5.3 million people having Alzheimer’s illness in the U.S., according to the Alzheimer’s Association, it’s no wonder that among credit union managers, primary care physicians, aging professionals and pharmacists surveyed, only 10 percent feel older Americans are very prepared to age compared with 42 percent of seniors.
“We have been looking at the retirement crisis and noting that many professionals see first hand that seniors don’t have enough private savings or that their home equity took a hit during the recession and it hasn’t rebounded,” Alwin said.
But finding a job isn’t as simple as it sounds for aging Americans who want to bridge the gap of insufficient income.