Most of us say to ourselves, “I never would have fallen for the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme that bilked billions of dollars from unsuspecting investors.” Yeah right. I suspect many of us would have if we just had enough money to make it worthwhile for Bernie to come after us. So what about the smaller-time bandits who are trying to squeeze the little they can from the less-than-rich? And what about our older parents who seem perfectly ripe for the kinds of con jobs that are going on now?
Scams and financial fraud are ever-present. And as citizens we should be aghast at how many people are affected. What galls me most is how many of these scams play directly to our senior population. Many older people don’t have that built-in suspicion the rest of us have since they grew up in a more innocent time when you could actually leave your door unlocked. And many don’t have the technological savvy to know what they can and cannot do when they get on their computers or cell phones.
A recent survey from the Investor Protection Trust found that over 7 million seniors had been scammed. That’s about 20% of the American population over 65. Scandalous.
The good news is that there is a movement to address this. The Prevent Elder Financial Abuse Call-in Program was created to help our parents avoid being ripped off. Several organizations have sponsored this program and set up telephone hotlines to help. Here are the numbers to call if you have concerns or questions:
But as children of aging parents, there are other things we can and must do to prevent our parents from being victims.
We’ve all heard the statistics: the Social Security trust fund will run out of money in the year … (fill in your own blank). And the expenses for Medicare will bankrupt the country at some point (again, fill in your own year).
I’m not a Chicken Little but I do agree there is legitimate concern. And it’s not just that I, myself, am getting pretty close to being a recipient of those government programs. I don’t envy policy makers who are struggling to come up with the best solution. It’s complicated. And I don’t believe it’s selfish of those who want to lower taxes on the wealthiest among us. They honestly believe that by lowering or keeping the taxes low for wealthy people, that will lead to more jobs being created. The argument is that those are the folks who create small businesses and therefore hire people. Hiring people and creating businesses will then grow the economy.
I have two responses to that. One, I ask, “How’s that working for you?” Not so well, eh? The Bush tax cuts have been in place for several years and yet jobs are just not being created are they? Maybe it’s time to start a new tactic and stop pretending that tax savings spur job growth. Tax savings enable wealthier people to spend more (which could help growth) but mostly, save more. That has no effect on the economy.
My second response is based on a report recently that said most job growth does not come from small businesses. This report said that about half of job growth actually comes from large companies. And another portion comes from public service jobs. So the thinking that by lowering taxes for small businesses the economy will grow is wrong. Or at least half wrong.
How does that tie into the tough choices we have to make for Medicare and Social Security? I hope the connection is obvious. Unless we fix those two programs, we won’t be able to grow our economy enough to keep the programs strong and effective. And that will severely hurt what this blog is all about, that is, "caring for your aging parents."
My solution? Twofold.