“There are approximately 10,000 people turning 65 every day, and that’s continuing for about the next 15 years,” said Hank Greenberg, Maryland director of the American Association of Retired Persons. Baby boomers “control about 70 percent of the U.S. disposable income, and as a result of that, since they have the money, there are people who will target them” with scams and fraudulent financial
offerings or advice.
With more than 46,000 complaints issued last year, Maryland is ranked sixth in the nation for fraud reports, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
About 18 percent of those complaints were filed by persons 60 or older, said Greenberg. “It’s important to learn to protect against scams.”
The AARP site (aarp.org) offers tools that assist in fraud and identity theft protection, such as the AARP Fraud Watch Network, where users can report scams and enroll to receive real-time fraud alerts in a specific area and view a scam-tracking map. Anyone can sign up; an AARP membership is not required to participate.
Imposters and debt collectors, bank and lender solicitation and mobile telephone service scams were among the most frequently reported in Maryland by the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network, Greenberg said. The state is 10th in the country for identity theft — with more than 5,000 reported cases in 2014 — and most cases concern government documents and benefits such as Medicare claims, credit card usage, phone and utility payments and bank drafts.
Daily money managers also can help “keep seniors safe from financial exploitation,” said Leah Nichaman, vice president of the American Association of Daily Money Managers (AADMM). “A daily money manager is right on the front lines, opening mail, seeing bills. [They are] in a good position to identify financial exploitation very early on and get it taken care of.”
Daily money managers help people who can no longer keep up with their financial affairs. They are not financial advisers but instead act as a personal financial assistant.
[pullquote]A daily money manager is right on the front lines, opening mail, seeing bills. [They are] in a good position to identify financial exploitation very early on and get it taken care of.[/pullquote]Lisa Berlin, president of Taking Care of Business, Inc., which serves the greater Baltimore area, said “having a fraud or identity theft” is one reason her clients make initial contact because they “don’t know what to do, but know something must be done quickly.” Many of her clients also call when they feel “buried in paperwork or overwhelmed, or they’ve been handling it successfully and now suddenly find it much more difficult” to keep on top of it.
“Usually clients come to us through one of their trusted advisers or a family member,” said Nichaman, who is also founder and president of Everyday Money Management that serves Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and the greater Washington, D.C. area. It might be a client’s attorney, financial adviser, accountant or even a social worker who suggests he or she enlist daily money management services, she said.
Nichaman said that the work is more than just dealing with people and their money.
A client might be “aging or dealing with chronic disability, so there’s a lot of emotional stuff that comes along with dealing with your checkbook or credit card statement,” she said. “So some of what we do is stress reduction. We’re helping to alleviate their anxiety. … It’s palpable sometimes. Even a little bit of help makes a huge difference to the way people feel.”
Both Nichaman and Berlin emphasized that a daily money manager doesn’t simply come in and take over a person’s finances.
“We meet the client [in their home] and see their paperwork” in order to assess the natural flow of all bills and payments, said Nichaman, who will literally ask what a client does with the mail after it comes into the mailbox — where it’s filed, how it’s paid, etc. “So we try to understand how a person manages their finances, and there are myriad ways, everyone is different. We try to insert ourselves into their system. Most people have a good system, but they just haven’t been maintaining it.”
“I usually say that we help keep people comfortable and organized, but we don’t do closets,” said Berlin, with a laugh. “It’s strictly financial. It’s a hands-on service but it’s also about educating clients.” Some “have never done it before, they [may be recently] divorced or widowed and need to learn how to do it or need help.”
A client’s needs might range from simply getting papers organized, bills paid or medical claims filed, said Nichaman, but she might also assess a client’s system and replace old tattered file folders and use larger legible labeling to adjust for a client’s fading eyesight or even rearrange a file cabinet to a more accessible spot if mobility is diminished. “We add practicality to their financial management so they can do as much of it themselves as they want to.”
Both women stressed the importance to choose the daily money manager that meets your needs. There is a certification required and continuing education needed for professionals. On the AADMM site (aadmm.com) there is a code of ethics and a checklist of what to look for in a daily money manager.
Berlin and Nichaman also noted that confidentiality is key in all dealings. They are often in contact with a client’s adult children or financial advisers, but the client has the final say and dictates all communication.
“We’re here to advocate for our clients,” said Berlin. “We always try to keep things moving and in order. We work to give the client peace of mind and allow them to sleep at night.”