Growing up, my grandmother, 95 today, was a role model for me in many ways. A tax collector in her early career, she had a passion for the stock market and was an avid stock follower – a craft she learned from my grandfather. She enjoyed writing option contracts and could explain the income strategies of options with ease and confidence.
Over the past couple of years however, I have watched her progressively diminish, no longer able to have deep conversations about stocks and becoming more anxious about money and her financial well-being. As the population of older Americans continues to increase, senior issues – including fear of financial exploitation and diminished capacity – have become a reality for my family as well as countless others. And, they will continue to be growing issues of concern, not just as people continue to live longer, but also as the digitization of our society sadly makes it easier to take advantage of our least tech-savvy citizens.
New and amended FINRA regulations are now effective, which will address these issues and give advisors and broker-dealers guidance on how to better prevent and report suspicious activity involving senior and vulnerable adults.
Five best practices for protection
1. Know the signs
Advisors can be the first line of defense in detecting signs diminished capacity and financial exploitation. There are many resources available through organizations like AARP and the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) that illustrate what to look for in client behaviors, appearances, attitudes and actions.
2. Make a plan
It’s not too early to talk to your clients about advanced planning initiatives and help them prepare for their financial future – in all scenarios.
3. Ask for a trusted contact person
The new FINRA rules require advisors to ask clients to name a trusted contact person in the event there are questions or suspicions on behaviors or activities.
4. Document suspicions
Make note of any problematic transactions, unusual requests, or disbursements that seem sudden or out of the ordinary.
5. Understand policies
If you suspect that action is warranted to protect your clients’ best interests, know your firm’s policy and who to contact and how to quickly step in and prevent damages.
Diminishment and exploitation of seniors are real and growing concerns in an increasingly aging population. I’m lucky that my grandmother is surrounded by people who love and care for her, and have her financial best interests at heart. New regulations and an ever-growing set of tools and education for advisors can help ensure that we all do our part to make sure the same is true for our older and more vulnerable clients.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Carrie Chelko is Senior Vice President and Chief Counsel for Lincoln Financial Group’s Distribution organization. She is an active member of the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging’s Task Force, which is focused on how to increase awareness of elder abuse and prevent financial exploitation of seniors living in Philadelphia. Lincoln Financial Group is the marketing name for Lincoln National Corporation and its affiliates.