Old age should come with a caution label for many reasons. Most of us expect to live longer than our parents and grandparents. And with longer life come difficulties – and sometimes financial predators.
Our vulnerability to predators is made worse by another problem: our aging brain. Studies have shown that as people age they become more focused on maximizing positive emotions and social interactions and more determined to block out negative experiences. Researchers call this socio-emotional selectivity.
More simply, this process means some older people pay more attention to those who make them feel comfortable and content. This often leads seniors to overlook signs of danger they might have clearly noticed when younger. Recent research shows that highly intelligent retirees (even those with no signs of dementia) find it harder to distinguish safe investments from risky ones.
In fact, data finds that more than seven million older Americans – one out of every five citizens older than 65 – has already fallen victim to a financial swindle. Often victims, tricked by an apparent atmosphere of care, allowed crooks access to personal information that made access to their money easier.
Here are two points to help protect ourselves and our elderly loved ones:
· If you’re in your 40s and 50s, you may not realize how quickly your mental processes can decline. You should get your affairs in order, both in terms of estate planning as well as financial planning. Once your plans are in place, discuss with your partner and financial professionals a stipulated delay before large changes to the plan and estate documents, especially as you age.
· If you’re responsible for dealing with your family’s financial situation, work with a professional who involves you and your spouse. Even if you can still handle the situation, both you and your partner must understand what the plan entails and the reasoning behind certain decisions. This becomes especially important if you die first and your partner then assumes full control over the plan.
Prepare now so that both you and your partner recognize the potential and special financial vulnerabilities of the aging brain.