Published by Mark Lookabill
When most people hear “financial security for seniors,” their minds immediately begin to think, “Do I have enough money for retirement?” We address this paramount topic as part of a client’s comprehensive wealth plan. All a person needs to do is a simple Google search and you will find all sorts of information on the topic. Whether it be retirement planning, Social Security or Medicare Supplement insurance, the topic of financial security extends into many areas for senior citizens.
While all of these areas are important, this article focuses more on the day to day financial security issues and questions that I’m encountering with my clients.
Online Accounts and Passwords
Generally speaking, the adoption of online account usage by my older clients has been slower than by their younger constituents. However, it’s becoming inherently more difficult for all of us to avoid the use of online accounts to transact business. With that comes the challenge of creation, use of and changes of account user names and passwords. For many, online account maintenance can be a very daunting task. However, there are a couple of basic steps that can be taken to help with the security aspects of accounts, usernames and passwords.
- Since we are utilizing technology more heavily, you need to take the next step and have a secure password app or program. There are many applications and services out there that you can utilize. Many are free or very low cost and allow for the secure storage of this information. While I don’t endorse any specific app, some potential options include 1Password, LastPass, Dashlane and KeePass.
- All usernames and passwords should be stored in a secure location and only shared with those most trusted around you. Yes, I did say shared with someone else which I will address in a few moments.
Secure Storage of Documents
I was recently visiting a client in their home and was horrified to see copies of their bank statements, investment summaries and their most recent tax return sitting out on the dining room table. This is someone who frequently has people providing in-home services and I’m sure they believe that all of these people are trustworthy. Unfortunately, we can never be completely sure. This is a classic example of how someone’s personal financial situation information can get into the wrong hands.
- The best solution is to have a secure online vault to hold all your important financial documents. This can include financial account statements, deeds, insurance policies, contracts, tax returns, legal documents, etc. A number of financial planning software tools have a secure encrypted online vault feature, which is a technology we use on a daily basis. An online vault allows for quick scanning or uploading of these documents. Once they are received, they can then be filed and stored electronically and paper copies can be shredded.
- Once an online vault has been created, the next step is to have one secure username and password to obtain all of these historical documents. It’s also paramount that your most trusted family members and your advisor are aware that your documents are electronically archived.
Monitoring of Expenses & Credit Accounts
We have all heard stories of people being taken advantage of, whether it be a scam where checks or money are sent to someone or irregular charges accrue on an account. As the old adage goes, “the best defense is a good offense.” This certainly applies here:
- Take advantage of the free credit monitoring sources that are available through credit reporting agencies.
- For most, ongoing credit monitoring services are worth the small fee. This is similar, in my opinion, to having an umbrella policy. It’s pennies on the dollar for the additional security. Again, I’m not advocating one service over another because there are a number of quality credit monitoring services available.
- As family members get older, it’s important to have a trusted family member or someone with legal permission to help monitor expenses and credit accounts. While this realization and subsequent conversations may be difficult initially, the goal is to ensure that you family’s assets are protected from unscrupulous people.
These recommendations are simple steps that can be taken to help create greater financial security at a very basic level. Unfortunately, because of the world we live in, they are steps that need to be taken. You can either embrace these changes- increasing your security, or you can resist change and subject yourself to potential risk. I know for my clients as well as family and friends, I would much prefer them to take action now as opposed to trying to clean up a mess after something bad has happened.
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