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Food for thought at your Thanksgiving table

It’s almost Thanksgiving, and like most Americans, I’m looking forward to eating all my favorite holiday dishes and spending some quality time with my family. This year I’ve got it easy. I’ll be spending my holiday going to see the latest blockbuster movie with my kids while my sister-in-law worries about whether the turkey is done. My teenaged nieces will help me set up some social media accounts and will probably laugh at my clueless questions, all while my son regales us with tales from his latest job.

Thanksgiving will also be a time for family conversations about serious matters. Thanksgiving is a great time to touch base with your family and make sure that everyone is doing well, physically, mentally, and financially.

Everyone at the dinner table will have a story

  • A dear friend’s husband wired thousands of dollars when a caller claimed that his daughter was in jail and needed bail money.
  • An older relative, who just turned 97, can no longer manage his finances. Now that his wife is gone, my husband is handling the older man’s money and property.
  • Another relative recently fell for a lottery scam, and we need to help her avoid frauds and scams in the future.

Fortunately, I’ll have lots of tips and tools to share with everyone, because I work at the only office in the federal government specifically dedicated to the financial health of older Americans, the Office for Older Americans at CFPB.

Managing someone else’s money

First, I’ll give my husband the Managing Someone Else’s Money guides. Like millions of Americans, he’s managing money and property for a loved one who is unable to pay bills or make financial decisions. This can be very overwhelming. But, it’s also a great opportunity to help someone you care about, and protect them from scams and fraud. There are four guides for four types of fiduciaries (people with legal authority to handle someone else’s money)—agents under a power of attorney; court-appointed guardians of property; trustees; and government fiduciaries (Social Security representative payees and VA fiduciaries).

My husband can read the guide for agents under a power of attorney. It covers:

  • An overview of his four duties, providing concrete examples and tips
  • Information on how to spot financial exploitation and scams, and who to contact if you do
  • Resources to find additional help

Protecting against scams and fraud

My relative is embarrassed that she fell for a lottery scam when a nice young man called her repeatedly and acted like her new best friend. She’s not alone, and she should speak out to her peers so they don’t become victims. Our Money Smart for Older Adults resource guide will teach her about a variety of scams and frauds that are out in the community right now and help her to be financially prepared for disasters. The CFPB is currently training leaders across the country to deliver this curriculum to older adults, their caregivers and other service providers in their communities.

Assisting living and nursing facilities

Another family member is a geriatric social worker who makes house calls at assisted living facilities. I’ll encourage her to give the staff at the facilities she visits CFPB’s new manual for assisted living and nursing facilities on how to protect residents from financial exploitation. These residents are especially vulnerable to scams and exploitation because many have Alzheimer’s disease or other cognitive impairments.

So, as you prepare to enjoy your turkey, your pumpkin pie, and all of your traditions, consider using this Thanksgiving gathering to share some food for thought as well! You can order single or bulk copies of these guides for free.

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