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Can Brain Images Tell You If Your Aging Client Can Still Handle Their Finances?


Can Brain Images Tell You If Your Aging Client Can Still Handle Their Finances?

The National Institute on Aging reports that scientists are using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain to explore the parts associated with money managing abilities. Can we actually see a picture of this?

The report cites neuropsychologist and lawyer, Dr. Marson. “It’s the $18.1 trillion problem,” said Daniel Marson, J.D., Ph.D., professor of neurology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, citing an estimate of household wealth held by U.S. adults age 65 and older. “That money is at risk in part because of the cognitive disorders of aging.”

We don’t have a way to pinpoint an exact spot in the brain that would tell us that a person is or is not competent with finances, but the report describes novel efforts using MRIs to find out more than ever about the brain and financial capacity. Changes in certain parts of the brain are linked to loss of financial capacity.

New techniques are providing intriguing data on why older adults—even those who were previously quite savvy about finances—may lose their money-managing abilities,” said Nina Silverberg, Ph.D., program director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Centers at NIA’s Division of Neuroscience.

What does this mean for you and your aging client?  

It may be one more objective way to verify what you already suspect: that an older client is not savvy anymore when it comes to handling finances. The trick would be persuading a client to get this brain image if you and the family suspect that the client is in cognitive decline. We don’t have the MRI techniques nailed down to verify loss of money making decisions, but that seems to be on the horizon.

Meanwhile, every advisor needs to be aware of the subtle signs of impairment in your client. An aging client who is in the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s for example, is already moderately impaired for making safe money decisions. That means that you, a responsible advisor have in place a clear path to bringing in a surrogate decision maker to help that client. Part of that $1.8 trillion Dr. Marson mentions as being at risk is what is paying your fees. Take prudent steps to protect it.

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