May is Older Americans Month. In his proclamation for the month, President Obama spoke of honoring the contributions older Americans have made and will continue to make:
Having lived through many of our Nation’s most challenging times, older Americans have shaped the story of America and secured the promise of our future. We are privileged to recognize these treasured citizens during Older Americans Month, and honor both the impact they have made and their accomplishments yet to come.
Older Americans face wide-ranging circumstances that may be familiar to anyone. Some are at the height of their careers; some are retired. They may be paying for their children’s education, moving into new homes, or paying off debts.
However, it is important that we remember that older Americans also face some unique financial opportunities and challenges:
- Many older Americans live on fixed incomes with limited savings to cover unexpected medical or other expenses. People need access to reliable and relevant information and advice to help make their savings stretch farther.
- Unfortunately older Americans are often the targets of investment scams such as Ponzi schemes and illegal offshore investments. Knowing how to spot “fraudsters” can often be challenging, especially when they have been referred by a friend or family. The CFPB has been charged with helping to educate older Americans to avoid unfair and deceptive practices.
- Americans aged 62 and older are eligible for reverse mortgages. If you are over 62 and own a home, you can borrow against the equity of that home in small amounts over time. Repayment is due when you no longer own the home or are absent for 365 days. This can help create a steady income during retirement, but it creates a large debt load. Reverse mortgage borrowers need to understand and be prepared for that risk.
The people just now reaching their sixties are part of America’s largest-ever generation of retirees. The CFPB is creating an Office of Financial Protection for Older Americans to ensure we serve this large community effectively.
This Office will connect seniors with what they need to guide themselves through their financial lives. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act requires this Office to be active by January 21, 2012. We are building it right alongside the rest of the consumer bureau, and in the coming weeks and months you’ll hear more from us about financial issues for seniors.
Here are some places you can go now for senior financial protection information:
- The Administration on Aging has Elder Rights Protection resources to make sure seniors can guard their rights.
- The Securities and Exchange Commission offers some tip sheets and resources.
- The FTC offers information on avoiding scams and fraudulent business practices, which advertise in ways that make them look like legitimate opportunities.
The theme for this year’s month is “Older Americans: Connecting the Community.” To learn more, visit the Administration on Aging’s page dedicated to Older Americans Month.