Thank you for joining us today. As we say frequently, the mission of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is to help build a better, more sustainable consumer financial marketplace. An essential element to such a marketplace is educated consumers making informed decisions.
In creating the Bureau, Congress required us to pay special attention to the needs of older Americans by creating an office that focuses directly on improving the financial lives of our growing numbers of seniors. With 50 million older Americans in this country and with the rapid aging of the baby boomer generation, that mission has never been more important.
In order to best protect our seniors, we must also educate the caregiver generation – people like me with an elderly parent. My father is 95. He grew up during the Great Depression. While he has always been remarkably self-sufficient, everyone needs some help from time to time, and maybe a little more over time. Those in our generation need to make it a point to learn about financial products and services so we can help ensure that our parents and other older Americans are able to make the best financial decisions for themselves.
In some cases, however, the caregivers are the ones who have to make the decisions. It could be a daughter with the power of attorney for her mother who is struggling with Alzheimer’s. Or it could be those who handle payments from the Department of Veterans Affairs on behalf of their combat-wounded brethren. For many reasons, many Americans act as fiduciaries by managing money or property for a family member or friend. Today, the Consumer Bureau is publishing a series of guides called “Managing Someone Else’s Money,” which are designed to help people who find themselves in these situations to understand and carry out their fiduciary responsibilities. We contracted and worked closely with the American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging to prepare these guides.
Fiduciaries are generally expected to act in the other person’s best interest, manage their finances carefully, keep those finances separate from their own, and maintain good records. Today we are publishing guides for people in four specific fiduciary capacities. First, we created a guide for people who are named in a power of attorney to make decisions about money and property for a loved one. Second, we have a guide for those appointed by a court as guardians or conservators of property to manage money and property for someone who cannot manage it alone. Third, there is a guide for those who have been named as trustees under revocable living trusts. In these cases, the beneficiary has transferred ownership of some or all of their money and property to a trust, and the person named as trustee has the power to decide what to do about the matters covered by the trust. Finally, we have developed a guide for those appointed by a government agency to manage someone else’s income benefits, such as Social Security or veterans benefits.
Our guides are designed to walk these caregivers through their financial duties and provide practical tips, like explaining common consumer scams. Unfortunately, all too often we have seen seniors fall victim to fraud or financial exploitation. They make attractive targets because they often have tangible household wealth – whether it is in retirement savings or home equity – but they may be isolated or lonely or otherwise susceptible to being influenced by a predator in disguise. People whose decision-making capacity has diminished are especially vulnerable to scams and exploitation. So the guides advise their fiduciaries about warning signs, such as changes in spending habits, which may indicate financial exploitation and explain what to do if the person in their care is a victim. The guides also provide insight into other resources and where to go for help.
Today we are also adding new content to the Ask CFPB tool on our website, our database of more than a thousand clear, unbiased answers to financial questions frequently asked by consumers. Almost a million people have visited Ask CFPB. We have drawn key information from these guides on “Managing Someone Else’s Money” and we have added it to this important consumer resource.
At the Consumer Bureau, we are dedicated to educating seniors, their loved ones, and their caregivers in order to best manage their finances. The Greatest Generation deserves our commitment to their economic security, and these guides will help us all to defend and protect them more effectively.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is a 21st century agency that helps consumer finance markets work by making rules more effective, by consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives. For more information, visit www.consumerfinance.gov.