Elder financial abuse, part II
This second post on the topic of senior financial abuse is directed at you, our elders.
We understand that most seniors today are quite familiar with the topic. However, there may be aspects that you had not considered or didn’t know. Also, you may know someone a friend or family member who is possibly a victim. This article may just become an indirect message telling them that they aren’t alone.
Today we’ll talk about the characteristics of financial abuse at the hands of relatives, things that go overlooked often.
We are used to thinking of financial abuse at the hands of relatives with the worst-case scenario like the one mentioned in my previous blog. A drug-addicted or unemployed relative who takes money, assets away little by little.
Breaches of trust
However, there are lesser events of a casual nature that you often don’t think of, that are an abuse of your finances disguised as matters of trust. Here are some:
- That one relative who often borrows small amounts from you and always forgets to pay you back;
- Those who take small amounts of cash from your wallet when they visit;
- The ones who go grocery shopping with you and load their items onto your shopping cart so that you will pay for them;
- That down-trodden, hard-time individual or couple who comes to tell you time and time again what a bad life they’ve had and how they have no money, guilt-tripping you into helping them.
- What about the guys who do small things for you around the house? Those who often ask you for more cash because they need it, or in advance of the next time, and then fail to show?
If these things happen once, helping is alright. We help those for whom we care, that’s what friends or family are for. But what do you do when it becomes a pattern? You need to find out a way to the cycle, as all of them constitute patterns of financial exploitation, of which you are victim. We’re here with some ideas.
What can you do?
First (and this will be hardest), talk to someone. Go to a relative, a trusted friend, your local elder assistance office. Asking for help does not make you an elderly person who needs full time assistance; it simply means that you need advice, and –possibly- assistance to handle this matter without putting yourself at further risk.
Many elderly victims of financial abuse believe that they will be judged because they let themselves fall into this trap. But the reality is that many people –young ones included-, fall prey to this type of financial abuse all the time. By letting someone else to know of your trouble, you will find validation. Taking action to protect yourself will become easier; you can even ask this person to help you confront the person abusing your trust.
Determine why it happened
Afterwards, we ask you to do some self-study. Was there anything that you did that you could have done differently to prevent the situation? Many times the answer is no. Others, you may come to the realization that if you had put your foot down at the start it might not have gone this far. Regardless of what this introspection may show you, use this as a learning experience; it will help you find ways to stop it from happening again.
Solutions to help without anyone taking advantage
- If you are going to help a relative by your own choice, do so in a way that it will not affect your credit worthiness. Do not cosign loans or put up any of your property as warranty on a loan.
- Here’s a great idea from one of our members. When she helps one of his children financially, she tells the other children; sometimes she even gives the same amount to the others. She keeps track and makes it clear to her children that everyone will get the same. The idea is that, at the time of her passing it will be sorted out who got what so that the estate division is fair.
- However, you can also be practical: don’t leave your wallet out or anywhere where it would be easy to find when people may come over. Not in your purse, pants, jacket, nightstand, kitchen counter (the worst possible place), or a coat closet. Find a good spot in a room where guests don’t go, so that you’ll need to go for it, if needed, and visitors won’t see you.
- Protect your checkbook. Keep it locked away and only pull it out to pay bills. Once or twice a month, flip through the checks to make sure they are all there. If you find a check missing, immediately contact the financial institution to stop it. In this case it’d be good to get a copy of the presented check, if you get the chance. Then you’ll know who took it.
- Take the same protective measures with you checkbook box, too. We’re speaking of the next series to the ones in your current checkbook. Keep them under lock.
Make your life easier
We gave you some practical advice to help you manage things at home. Here are some other great ideas that will help you manage your everyday finances:
- Have you considered giving up the use of checks altogether? With the Credit Union’s online banking, which has this great bill-paying system, you will only need to learn to pay a bill once, it’s that easy.
- You can also set up automatic payments of most bills with the companies that issue them. Plus, there is direct deposit for everything you might ever need to deposit to your account on a regular basis. Then, you can be free of checkbooks forever.
- Avoid using cash; just have a medium-sized bill for emergencies tucked away. For everything else, debit cards are a great way to pay everywhere.
- Get a safety deposit box. The credit union offers them at great prices. You can put your unused checkbooks, that rainy day credit card, the jewelry you want to leave to family, and your property titles in there. It’s also a good place to stash your savings bonds and other important documents.
- Learn to say no. We know how hard it can be. We all have it in us to want to help. However, sometimes saying no is the right thing. It doesn’t make you a mean person, or cheap, or heartless, if you say no. Our years of experience at OAS FCU taught us that many parents and grandparents who think they’re helping are, most of the time, applying a bandage solution to a long-term problem that they can’t possibly fix. Other times, by constantly keeping their loved ones out of trouble, they are enabling their bad behavior.
OAS FCU can help, too
This brings us to our closing point: you can always count on the Credit Union for help in all matters financial. If you find yourself or someone close to you in a pickle, contact the credit union. Email, call us at 202-458-3834, make a virtual appointment or come to our offices. Tell us what’s happening. We’re trained to help you with these matters and will immediately step into action to provide assistance.
Do you want to go all digital in managing your money, but think you can’t do it alone? We have staff especially trained to show you and teach you how to use all our digital tools. Make a virtual appointment or come by to see us!