Retirement savings and home values took a beating in the financial meltdown from which the US is still trying to recover. For many of our senior loved ones, especially those who are elderly, “retirement savings” is the money used to live and “home value” is the financial asset expected to be the cushion for hard times. That means it was the ability to pay for life that took a beating for many seniors.
The US Congress, as part of its response to the financial meltdown, included in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (which we won’t begin to discuss here) the establishment of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB. The stated mission of the CFPB is to make markets for consumer financial products and services work for Americans.
Older Americans comprise one of the groups specifically targeted for protection by the CFPB by Dodd-Frank. The Office of Financial Protection for Older Americans (yes, Washington likes long, descriptive titles) was set up to give seniors information and tools to help them navigate financial challenges.
Functions of the OFPBA
- help seniors prevent the taking of their savings or home
- improve the understanding of financial decisions faced when a spouse dies
- point seniors in the right direction when seeking information
- provide information regarding financial choices
- provide access to tools helpful in the achievement of financial goals
If you go to the website of the Office of Financial Protection for Older Americans you won’t find a lot of information, rather you’ll see links to find information on other federal government sites and in other resources. The CFPB is a very young government agency whose function will likely grow as it receives political guidance. In the meantime, they do suggest five things to do in order to protect what belongs to you.
5 Ways for Seniors to Protect What’s Theirs
- Ask Questions – before signing anything make sure its understood and in the senior’s interest; don’t be afraid to ask others if help is needed or there is uncertainty.
- Protect Personal Information – don’t give out personal information such as account or social security numbers online or on the phone unless the requester is known and the information is truly needed.
- Plan Ahead for Retirement – yes, this is a little late for seniors but still good to consider for those not yet retired or those of us who are family members planning our own futures.
- Don’t Lose Your House – fully understand and be comfortable with implications before putting the house on the line as security for a loan or any other purpose; be careful when considering a reverse mortgage (a future Senior Care Corner topic).
- Learn to Say No – as we’ve discussed before, polite people like our elderly loved ones are targeted by scammers because they don’t like to say no, which costs so many seniors a lot of money.
We wholeheartedly endorse these points, which can’t be repeated enough. If you have trouble talking about such financial topics with your senior loved ones or they have trouble taking advice from you, sit down with them and walk through the points in this post – let Senior Care Corner be the messenger, with you there to discuss and interpret.
Remember, the government and others may offer tools and assistance with financial issues, but they are still our parents, grandparent and loved ones. We are the ones who most want to keep them from being hurt!