PLANNING AHEAD: Entwistle Financial Life Planning founder Bill Entwistle says the elderly are susceptible to scams because of their age and their accumulated assets. Above, he speaks with paraplanner Terry Hazel in his South Kingstown office.
Elderly Rhode Islanders, like older adults across the nation, may be particularly vulnerable to financial exploitation by unscrupulous individuals presenting themselves as legitimate estate and retirement planners.
“Recent studies suggest that financial exploitation is the most common form of elder abuse and that only a small fraction of incidents are reported,” according to the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission, which released guidelines on Sept. 24 about privacy requirements under the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which gives consumers at financial institutions the choice to opt out of providing personal information to a third party.
“Older adults are often targeted because they have retirement savings, accumulated home equity and other assets. They are also more likely to experience cognitive decline, which can impair their capacity to recognize financial exploitation and scams,” the SEC said in the release.
The SEC and other federal agencies warn that older adults may be taken advantage of by scam artists, financial advisers, caregivers or family members.
“My average client is 66 years old and a lot of them are widows. They are ripe for this type of exploitation,” said Bill Entwistle, whose firm Entwistle Financial Life Planning, does about 75 percent of its work in retirement planning.
“Some investments come with high fees. Sometimes a bank will sell a person an annuity and they don’t know they’re paying a commission,” said Entwistle, who is a certified financial planner. “If a bank representative doesn’t fully disclose what they’re proposing for this client to buy, the client may not know their money is not fully liquid or not insured.”
Though he admits a bias for his specialty as a fee-only financial planner, that way of working can avoid a lot of potential conflicts of interest, Entwistle said.