Cathy Weatherford, the president and CEO of the Insured Retirement Institute (IRI), spoke today at a White House symposium to recognize World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. In her keynote address, Weatherford discussed the effects of financial exploitation on retirement planning and highlighted efforts made by financial services organizations to address the exploitation of elders.
“We are committed to the consumers we serve each and every day,” she said. “The very last thing we want to see happen is for any bad actor to surreptitiously erase a lifetime of savings—the very act that can create financial ruin for an older American—in the blink of an eye. We view our relationships with our clients as a lifelong partnership, and we are committed to protecting them from exploitation.”
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is June 15. Weatherford’s remarks were delivered during the symposium’s closing session, along with Kathy Greenlee, assistant secretary for aging and administrator for the Administration for Community Living, and Hubert Humphrey III, assistant director of the Office of Older Americans at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
She pointed out that the ranks of older investors are growing at a brisk rate and that they have amassed a relatively high level of wealth.
“The number of Americans between the ages of 60 and 64 grew 56 percent from 2000 to 2010, and during the same period, the oldest Americans, those ages 85-plus, grew by 30 percent,” she said. “We also know that the highest median net worth of all demographics [is] among individuals between the ages of 55 and 64. Additionally, the median net worth for families in which the head of household is at least 75 years old is nearly 20 percent higher than that of Boomers between the ages of 45 and 54.”
Because the number of older Americans is increasing so quickly, their wealth is on the rise as well. Baby Boomers have more than $13 trillion in investable assets, which makes them targets for financial exploitation.
Weatherford pointed out that women are nearly twice as likely as men to be victims of elder financial abuse. Victims are typically in their 70s, live alone and require assistance with health care or home maintenance. Fraud is usually perpetrated by strangers, followed by family, friends and neighbors.
The financial industry, particularly financial advisors, has the opportunity to help identify red flags as they work with older investors, she said.
To support World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, IRI, which spearheads the National Retirement Planning Coalition, is organizing its member firms and external partners through the coalition to promote awareness of financial elder abuse, provide education about it, and disseminate resources that are available to help the most vulnerable.