The Priceless Gift of Peace of Mind
We often envision our elder years as a time of leisure and peace. The hustle of life settles down a bit, and we can finally breathe without the pressures of a job and career. While reaching our elder years can bring many gifts and blessings, this stage of life also brings many new challenges and vulnerabilities— one of which is financial security.
Financial matters can be complicated—often difficult to understand and difficult to manage. As we age and our cognitive abilities can sometimes decline with that aging, these matters can be increasingly challenging. It can be easy to get confused, to lose the ability to keep track of spending, or to forget basic money management processes that one had easily made use of earlier in life.
But it’s not only cognitive limitations that can complicate one’s ability to manage finances independently and that can threaten a senior’s financial wellbeing. There are many who will readily take advantage of senior citizens, greedily scamming them out of their hard-earned money and/or savings. Scammers are often attracted to the vulnerability of seniors and can target the most trusting of them.
- With the elderly population growing and seniors racking up more than $3 billion in losses annually, elder fraud is likely to be a growing problem. https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-scams-and-crimes/elder-fraud
- Approximately 1 of every 18 cognitively intact older adults living in the community are victims of financial fraud or scams each year in the United States. Thus, elder financial fraud and scams are a common problem, affecting millions of older adults annually. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5508139/#:~:text=Results%20indicate%20that%205.4%25%20(approximately,year%20in%20the%20United%20States.
Couple such trickery with many seniors attempting to live on a fixed income (all while the cost of living regularly rises), and we can see how one’s financial foundation might quickly be pulled out from under their feet. One mistake can quickly escalate to a near or full-blown crisis. This scenario is not rare.
Meet William and Ruth
William and Ruth were in their mid-80s when they found themselves in a perilous financial situation, with foreclosure for back-taxes. They were also behind on their mortgage. To make ends meet, they had established accounts with several cash advancement companies. It got them by, but in making it through the urgent needs of their days, the weeks, months, and years that followed brought another devastating tally: mounting debt. It was a kind of financial quicksand, and they needed help.
The couple was referred to Catholic Social Services by Advocacy and Protective Services, Inc. They were clearly in need of assistance, guidance, and support. Fortunately, CSS runs a Payee Services Program, which provides individualized financial management to those who are unable to manage their own financial affairs. Through this program, we
- account for all income and set up an individualized monthly budget.
- ensure bills are paid on time and that clients don’t go into debt they can’t handle.
- help protect our clients from financial exploitation.
- help clients build savings for unexpected expenses.
- ensure that the client’s essential living needs (food, housing, utilities, medical care, clothing, etc.) are being met each week.
- are a phone call away to respond when needed.
CSS can also manage other forms of income such as pensions, paychecks, and settlement funds. Through our Money Management program, Social workers help clients manage their finances by helping prepare monthly budgets, pay bills, deposit checks, make connections with financial and legal resources, and prepare for long-term needs—all so they can remain independent. These kinds of money management and payee services make a huge difference.
For William and Ruth, CSS’ Payee Program was able to stop their foreclosure and arrange a formal payment schedule to get them out of debt. We contacted the cash advancement companies the couple had been working with and arranged a re-payment schedule on their loans. We also discovered that the couple had been the victim of a money scam by a Nigerian group, to which they were regularly sending money.
It took about a year, but CSS was able to help them get completely out of debt. What’s more, with our help, they were even able to begin accumulating savings.
In late 2020, William shared with us how happy he was to know that his debts and bills had been taken care of so that Ruth would be okay. He shared that he wasn’t feeling very well, and this financial stability that he and Ruth had achieved had given him great peace of mind. Though he did not say it directly, the CSS staff assisting, in this case, began getting a distinct feeling that William had a sense that he was terminally ill. This was, in fact, the case. Within four months, William passed away.
Today, Ruth continues to be part of CSS’ Payee Program and presently has over $3,000 in savings. This gives her added peace of mind.
Sound financial standing and management is a huge part of remaining independent and safe in the later years. At CSS, we are determined to help with that piece of the independence puzzle. We believe our vulnerable seniors need to be protected, cared for, and, often, guided through difficult life tasks and decisions, including money matters. CSS is here to build trusting relationships with seniors and their families as we meet these needs and support aging in place.