Posted on October 16, 2018

Helping Older Americans Protect Savings and Guarding Against Health, Financial Pitfalls

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Financial firms and professionals, law enforcement officials, policymakers and others are beefing up resources to help retirees avoid the devastating loss of retirement income to scams or exploitation, especially by caregivers or family members.

The Insured Retirement Institute (IRI) is hosting a one-day summit today on Protecting Older Investors: What’s Next, which will bring stakeholders together to share information on programs and strategies already in place and discuss what else should and could be done to improve, enhance and strengthen awareness about this growing problem and provide increased protections for older Americans’ financial assets accumulated for their retirement.

Research by IRI shows that elderly financial exploitation will likely be a growing problem particularly as  the population of older Americans is expected to double in size to nearly 84 million Americans by 2050 and their retirement assets move further from guaranteed monthly pension payments to accumulated savings in defined contribution retirement programs like 401(k) plans.

“Financial professionals, working with clients across America are on the frontlines in fighting this battle to protect older investors and their hard-earned retirement savings from exploitation and fraud,” said Cathy Weatherford, IRI president and CEO.  “We continue to seek out new tools in the ongoing effort to combat senior financial exploitation and work to improve communications between advisors, their firms and governmental and law enforcement agencies.” 

IRI’s conference will feature panels on how financial advisors can help identify fraud against older investors; how law enforcement and adult protective services representatives are working to combat financial abuse and catch perpetrators; what policymakers charged with implementing federal and state regulations are doing to protect consumers and provide resources and; retirement planning strategies that can help protect seniors.

An IRI survey earlier this year found roughly 40 percent of financial advisors see cases of suspected financial abuse of elder investors several times a year. And about 40 percent have confirmed at least one or two cases of elder financial abuse within the last three years.

Among elderly vulnerabilities that financial advisors may see are early signs of cognitive issues such as dementia or other diminished cognitive capacity.

IRI was a staunch advocate for and applauded the adoption of the Senior Safe Act, which was signed into law in May of this year as part of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (Public Law 115-174). This new law empowers and encourages financial professionals to be trained in recognizing cases of exploitation and reporting suspected cases of exploitation to law enforcement and other appropriate governmental agencies to help prevent older investors from becoming victims.

IRI believes the fight against elder abuse will require many tools, including investor education for retirees and securing a portion of savings in products that provide guaranteed lifetime income to limit the risk of financial catastrophe from bad actors.

“Guaranteed monthly income payments are one way to ensure that a retiree’s life savings or other assets do not become a fat target for scammers or others seeking to steal from older Americans,” Weatherford said. “Our industry is taking a leadership role in raising awareness, creating education programs for financial advisors, and working with law enforcement and policymakers to raise defenses against these heinous crimes that can ruin lives among our nation’s most vulnerable populations.”

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Contact: Dan Zielinski