Protect Yourself from Your Aging Brain

Old age should come with a  caution label. As we have often discussed on this blog, most of us should be expecting to live longer than our parents or grandparents. And while this longevity can be beneficial, it also comes with some difficulties. We’ve addressed the major difficulty of making sure that your income can keep pace with the cost-of-living increases, especially if your retirement last 3+ decades. We have often spoken about the need to plan, and have your investment portfolio designed, to account for that fact.

But this post deals with another difficulty that is a bit more disturbing. It deals with our aging brain. Studies have shown, as people age, they become more focused on maximizing positive emotions and social interactions and more determined to block out negative experiences. It is a process the experts call socio-emotional selectivity.

Elderly People Street SignWhat this process does is have older people pay more attention to those people who make them feel comfortable and content. This often leads people to overlook signs of danger that they would have clearly noticed when they were younger. Recent research has shown that highly intelligent retirees (even those with no signs of dementia) find it harder to distinguish safe investments from risky ones.

The news is constantly discussing individuals who had money taken by people close to them, whether a family member or an aide. Often the victims of these crimes have allowed them to have access to the checkbook or personal information which allowed the perpetrators access to the money.

On one occasion when asked why they gave an aide access to their checkbook, they responded “because they always bring me my eggs in the morning”.

There are three points that I would like to discuss about this research to help protect ourselves and the ones that we love.

  1. Having spoken to a few trust and estate attorneys, they have discussed that while there have always been people who prey on the elderly there now seems to be a concerted and organized effort in place to find and take advantage of the affluent elderly. These predators are subtle and work first by gaining access and trust of the wealthy individual. Financial professionals and concerned family members should be on guard and aware of this troubling trend.
  2. Individuals in their 40s and 50s are often unaware of how quickly the mental process declines. So these individuals need to begin to plan in order to get their affairs in order, both for estate planning purposes as well as financial planning purposes, before their ability to plan diminishes. Once these plans are in place, there should be a discussion with your partner and other financial professionals that a required delay in time be enforced in order to make large changes to the plan and estate documents, especially as you age. Always discuss large changes with a trusted advisor before implementation.
  3. Lastly, especially to those men who are responsible for dealing with the family’s financial situation, it will be important to have been working with a financial planner who has involved you and your spouse. Even if you have the ability to handle the situation, both partners have to understand what the plan entails and why decisions have been made. This is especially important if the male dies first and the widow is expected to be able to understand what needs to be done with the plan. She will also be subjected to the aging brain and all the vulnerabilities of this predator class.

Let’s decide that this year is the year you move forward to do the planning that you know is necessary. Give us a call so we can start the conversation.

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About Dan Crimmins

Dan Crimmins, co-founder of Crimmins Wealth Management, is a financial coach and fee only financial planner. Have a financial question? ASK DAN

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