How to Determine Whether or Not You Want to Report Financial Abuse
In a recent issue of Investment News, a study of financial advisors looked at this question. 591 advisors were asked about their experiences with elder financial abuse. One of the surprising findings focused on those advisors who knew or suspected abuse but did not report it.
A significant percentage of those who did not report abuse gave as a reason that they did not know who to contact. What is most troubling about this finding is that not knowing who to contact is such a simple problem to solve. Historically your regulators have never required that you have the name of a trusted contact for your client in order to open a file for that person. Here at AgingInvestor.comand AgingParents.com, where elder financial abuse comes up often, we think it is extremely short-sighted to be without a trusted contact or two in every client’s file. Isn’t it obvious that you need someone to call if a client gets into danger, whether it’s elder abuse or not? No one gets out of here alive and a client can live for quite a long time, developing cognitive impairment along the way. That puts a person at much higher risk for financial abuse.
New FINRA rules will require that you make “reasonable efforts” to get a trusted contact from your clients. We assure you, reasonable efforts are a lot easier to make when your client is signing up than they are when your client is 92 and forgetful or suspicious of everyone’s motives.
From us, two professionals who have worked with countless elders and their families over the last 10 years, we have three tips for every financial professional handling a client’s finances:
- You can’t ensure that your client will be competent for financial decisions forever. Be realistic! People are living longer and they may develop dementia or other cognitive impairment. Get at least two trusted contacts in every file for every client age 65 or older. Why two or more? One trusted contact might end up being the very person who is abusing your client–a family member.
- Get smart about the basics of recognizing red flags of diminished capacity. We offer a simple free checklist to help you. Click on the green button here to get yours now. These signs are warnings that your client is more vulnerable to manipulation by others.
- Know how to report financial elder abuse. You don’t have to be certain that abuse has occurred. You do need to know who may be doing it, when and how, in general (e.g., pushing your client into large, unexplained withdrawals). A reasonable suspicion is enough. It’s ok if you’re wrong. And you can do it anonymously. Call Adult Protective Services in the county where your client lives if you think someone is ripping off your vulnerable client.
Some advisors are worried that they’ll get sued for reporting suspected financial abuse. This is incorrect. Your regulators want you to report it. If you do what is reasonable, you are not a target. However, if you know that your impaired client is being financially abused and you do absolutely nothing, liability for failure to act is certainly possible.
I Have A Brand And It Haunts Me
I was talking to my pal “Jonas” who recently decided to freelance (vs building a multi-consultant business) when he left a bigger firm to do his own thing.
Jonas is a global talent guy who works across the planet for some of the world’s most well known companies. He decided his best play—the one that would allow him to focus on what he loves most and live the life he’s planned—is to freelance for other firms.
His plan got off to a bit of a rocky start because—get this—none of the firms he approached believed he’d actually want to “just” freelance. He’d earned his rep by steadily building deep, brand name client relationships, practices and business, not by going off by himself as a solo.
Or as he put it “I have a brand and it haunts me.”
We both had a good belly laugh because he was already rolling in new projects, thrilled with his choice to freelance.
And yet, isn’t that the truth?
Good, bad, indifferent—our brands DO haunt us.
They whisper messages to those in our circle “trust him, he’s the bomb”, “hire her for anything creative as long as your deadline isn’t critical”, “steer clear—he talks a good game but doesn’t deliver”.
And thanks to social media, those messages—good and bad—can accelerate faster than you can imagine. One client, one reader, one buyer can be the pivot point that takes your consulting business to new territory.
So how do you deal with it?
Yep—you go for more of what comes naturally. In Jonas’ case, he stuck with what he’s known for—his work, his relationships, his track record for integrity—and won over any lingering skepticism about his move.
We weather the bumps in the road by staying true to who we are at our core.
So when a potential client says “Sorry, you’re just too expensive for me”, you don’t run out and change your prices. Instead, you listen carefully and realize they aren’t the right fit for your particular brand of expertise and service.
When a social media troll chooses you to lash out at, you ignore them and stay with your true audience—your sweet-spot clients and buyers.
And when your most challenging client tells you it’s time to change your business model to serve them better, you listen closely (there may be some learning here) and—if it doesn’t suit your strengths—you kiss them good-bye.
If your brand isn’t haunting you, is it really much of a brand?
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