Elder financial abuse is not a new problem. Throughout Australia the elderly have lost their savings, valuables and homes through financial abuse, but it’s only now that serious steps are being taken to address the issue.
As a financial adviser, you’re in a unique position to spot questionable behaviour and create a safe environment where clients can speak openly without pressure or intimidation.
What is elder financial abuse?
Elder financial abuse is the theft or improper use of money or assets of an elder person (generally aged 65 or older). “It can include but is not limited to, behaviours such as using finances without permission, using a legal document such as an enduring power of attorney for purposes outside what it was originally signed for, withholding care for financial gain, or selling or transferring property against a person’s wishes.”1 It can happen to any elderly person regardless of their socio-economic status.
It can include a broad range of conduct from deception to intimidation from family members, friends or carers. Whilst the number of Australians suffering financial abuse is unknown, it’s conservatively estimated to be at least 10 per cent of older Australians each year and the perpetrators are most likely their adult children.2
“Elder financial abuse is the theft or improper use of money or assets of an elder person (generally aged 65 or older).”
Common warning signs
A combination of diminished mental capacity and questionable changes in behaviour can be red flags signalling financial exploitation. Below are some of the things to look out for when meeting with your older clients:
1. Diminished capacity or vulnerability
• Signs of depression, loneliness or forgetfulness
• Changes in their ability to care for themselves or becoming dependent on others for care
• The person providing your client’s care or managing their finances makes you feel uncomfortable
2. Questionable changes in financial behaviour
• Suspicious signatures on financial transactions
• Sudden/unexplained changes to the power of attorney, will, or ownership of assets
• A new ‘best friend’ in your client’s life who is making decisions
• Sudden or large amounts of money are given to family, friends, charities or others
• An overall disappearance of money, valuables or financial statements
What to do if you suspect elder financial abuse?
As a trusted financial adviser to older clients, not only can you help make their money go the distance, you can also help them if they become vulnerable to financial abuse. By engaging with your client on an emotional level, you can build trust beyond conversations about their investment portfolio and provide them with a safe space to talk about their circumstances.
If you do see the warning signs for financial exploitation, you can call 1800 ELDERHelp (1800 353 374) which connects you to information and advice on elder abuse.
1 National Plan to Respond to the Abuse of Older Australians [Elder Abuse] 2019-2023, Council of Attorneys-General, 19 March 2019.
2 Elder Abuse, Bina Brown, https://thirdagematters.com.au/elder-abuse/, 2 April 2018.
This material is issued by Allianz Australia Life Insurance Limited, ABN 27 076 033 782, AFSL 296559. (Allianz Retire+). Allianz Retire+ is a registered business name of Allianz Australia Life Insurance Limited. This information is current as at October 2019 unless otherwise specified. This information has been prepared specifically for authorised financial advisers in Australia, and is not intended for retail investors.