Monthly Archives: October 2015

Managing Someone Else’s Money

by Barbara Parrott McGinity, LMSW

Last April, the New York Times published an story title “As Cognition Slips, Financial Skills are the First to Go.” The article states that several studies show the ability to handle simple math and financial matters are the first skills one loses with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Then there are other studies that demonstrate that an individual’s ability to handle financial matters can begin to decline in their 50’s.

Here are some startling statistics. There are 44.7 million people 65 and older, representing 14 percent of the population, and this number will grow to an estimated 66 million in 10 years. This older population has trillions of dollars in wealth, and they are frequently struggling to manage their own finances as they become increasingly vulnerable to financial exploitation.

As people are living longer, well into their 80’s and 90’s, who ends up being the primary caregiver…most likely aging children! One advisor quoted in the New York Times article said he wished that when people reach 65, they would simplify their investments. But what we have are 65 years olds managing both their own finances and the finances of parents and loved ones who no can no longer handle even the basics of paying monthly bills. In other words, it doesn’t get less complicated only more complicated.

Becoming the financial caregiver can be challenging. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has developed a set of guides to help you “Managing Someone Else’s Money.” These guides provide information on:

• Agents under a power of attorney
• Court-appointed guardians of property and conservators
• Trustees
• Government-benefit fiduciaries (Social Security representative payees and VA fiduciaries).

The guides help financial caregivers in three ways: they walk them through their duties, they tell them about protecting their loved ones from financial exploitation and scams, and they tell them where to go for help.  But be aware, that your power to oversee an individual’s finances does vary from state to state so make sure you know the rules in Texas and use the guides to assist in your decision making. You can always find an Elder Care Attorney through the Texas Bar Association to help you with the appropriate legal documents for Texas. The guides are available at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau website, at http://www.cfpb.gov.

Sweetheart Scams Target Lonely Elderly via the Internet

by Barbara Parrott McGinity, LMSW

Finding that perfect match online is something we hear about commercial after commercial. Young people are often very successful in meeting Mr. or Ms. Right, but older adults are frequently targeted by swindlers who steal thousands of dollars from them while breaking their heart.

There was a recent article in the New York Times describing one woman’s experience with an online dating service. Her email conversations with someone who said they were a German business man were warm, caring and engaging. He wanted someone just like her in his life to travel with and see the world. A confident woman with whom he could share his life. She was hooked.

And once a swindler knows their target has swallowed the bait, the request for money begins. Maybe they have a sick mother and just need a little help. They have cancer and their funds are running short. They are always in a foreign country, so maybe they need to get home to “die” in their arms, so please send money. This one woman, over a period of several years, sent over $300,000 to her online soul mate.

Online dating services are not the only way these swindlers find their target. Social media is another area where you have to exercise caution interacting with strangers and even people you think are your friends.

Social media websites like Facebook are a great way to connect with long ago friends. Your class reunion or high school Facebook page connects you with pass friends and this can include past loves. All of a sudden that long lost love, the one that got away, is back in your life. Making you smile, you feel like you are 16 again experiencing that first kiss. But, they are not that old flame, they are a con artist preying on your vulnerabilities to steal your money.

Be very careful how you connect with people over the Internet when you are unable to meet them in person. Do not respond to strangers who seem to know you but you cannot remember them. And most importantly, the minute anyone asks you for money…cut off all contact. There is absolutely NO reason you should ever wire money overseas to anyone, no matter how well you think you know them.

Watch out for your friends and family. If there is someone in your life who is talking about this wonderful person they met online, talk to them about the dangers of online dating. They may not believe you because THEIR special person is the exception and would never harm them. Ask them if they have ever sent money and what would they do if they were asked. They may not listen or want to listen, but it is always worth a try if you can save them the heartache of losing not only their money but their confidence.

Beware of Scams and Fraud during Medicare Open Enrollment

by Barbara Parrott McGinity, LMSW

It is that time of year again, open enrollment for Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage plans takes place from October 15 to December 7. Because it is so important that you review your Medicare Part D plans and your Medicare Advantage plan (if you have one) every year, I am repeating this column from last year.
This is your opportunity to review your current health needs and make adjustments based on your needs and your healthcare costs. But it is also an opportunity for scam artists and unscrupulous people to take advantage of you so here are some pointers on what you should and should not do.
You should always shop for a drug plan each year. Plans change more than the cost of their premiums; they also change the drugs they cover. You need to make sure you are getting the best price for your medication by going to http://www.medicare.gov for your search. Get a family member to help if you don’t use the Internet or call the Area Agency on Aging at 832-393-4301 and speak to a qualified Benefits Counselor.
What you should NEVER do, is give personal information over the phone or in person to a stranger just because they are telling you Medicare is changing. All the information you need to now from Medicare comes to you in your Medicare and You Handbook every October. There are no “new” Medicare cards, there are no “new” drug cards, so hang up if you get one of these calls.
You should also evaluate your overall health care costs and decide which is best for you, traditional Medicare or enrolling in a Medicare Advantage plan. When it comes to Medicare Advantage plans, Medicare has strict marketing guidelines that insurance agents and plans must follow. Agents and or brokers:
• Cannot say they are from Medicare or imply that Medicare endorses them,
• Cannot solicit by going door-to-door,
• Cannot send unwanted emails or voicemails or call you unless you have asked to be called.
• Cannot approach you in a parking lot, lobby, mall, or other common areas.
• Cannot approach you in an exam room, dialysis center or pharmacy counter.
• Cannot provide meals at sales presentations.
• Cannot conduct marketing or sales activities at an educational event.
• Cannot market non-health related products such as life insurance during educational sessions.
• Cannot offer you a gift worth more than $15.

You should also be aware of changes to Medicare in The Affordable Care Act. Benefits rolled out in 2012 but, remember to watch out for scam artists. Change brings confusion and scam artists are standing by to capitalize on that confusion.
If you are unsure about a phone call or want to check out a company, please call me first at 713-341-6184. If you need assistance to enroll in a Part D plan, you can contact the Area Agency on Aging by calling the United Way Information and Referral Hotline at 211 and asking for the local number. We want you to be safe…not sorry.