Older Americans face unique challenges in managing their money. Are you prepared to help them navigate these obstacles?
May is Older Americans Month, first proclaimed by Gerald Ford in 1976. The past year has been challenging for all Americans, but the consequences of the pandemic fell heavily on older Americans and their families and caregivers. A unique challenge that many older Americans face is money management.
Programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid can be difficult for someone to navigate alone, and those who are experiencing chronic illness or cognitive decline may need even more help overseeing their finances.
Further complicating money challenges for older adults is that they are considered to be at higher risk of being targeted by and falling victim to financial scams. According to the FBI, “seniors are often targeted because they tend to be trusting and polite. They also usually have financial savings, own a home, and have good credit — all of which make them attractive to scammers.”
This year’s theme for Older Americans month is Communities of Strength. Libraries and partner organizations can help build communities of strength for their older citizens by providing access to resources, education and support. A number of government agencies, such as the Administration for Community Living and the Department of Justice, as well as nonprofit organizations like AARP and FINRA (see especially FINRA's Securities Helpline for Seniors), provide free educational content and other resources to help libraries, caregivers and older Americans themselves learn about financial management, assistance programs and fraud prevention. One great partner for libraries and librarians to be aware of is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
The 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. The Bureau was created in 2010 with the passage of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which was drafted in response to the Great Recession of 2007 and 2008. The CFPB accepts complaints from consumers about financial products and services. You can find out more about the complaint process on their website.
In addition to addressing consumer complaints, the CFPB has divisions that focus on consumer segments, including older Americans. The Office for Older Americans engages in research, policy and educational initiatives designed to:
- help protect older consumers from financial harm
- help older consumers make sound financial decisions as they age
- help stakeholders by providing tools to support long-term financial security for older adults
During Older Americans Month, consider highlighting some resources from the CFPB website that older adults and their families will find useful. Visit consumerfinance.gov/olderamericans for more information.
- Financial caregiving: Resources for those who help an older relative or friend manage their money.
- Housing decisions: Help for those considering a reverse mortgage as well as current reverse mortgage borrowers.
- Planning for retirement: Information on the factors that influence when to claim Social Security.
- Online and mobile banking tips: A few tips to help older adults get started since bank and credit union hours may be limited.
- Elder financial exploitation: Resources to help older adults and their caregivers prevent, avoid and report scams, fraud and other forms of financial exploitation.
Managing someone else's money
Many libraries are putting CFPB and other agencies' resources into practice to help their communities to assist older adults. At the Effingham Public Library, staff has established partnerships and built low-cost resources to create the Forget Me Not Resource Center, which supports those with Alzheimer's or other dementia-related illnesses and their caregivers. One in three older Americans die from dementia-related illnesses each year. In a rural community such as Effingham, it is especially crucial to provide these resources because other sources of support may be unavailable.
To learn more about library programming and resources for helping older adults or their caregivers manage finances, register to join the RUSA Financial Literacy Interest Group on Wednesday, May 12, at 3 p.m. Eastern for a free webinar. Our speakers, Johnna Schultz of the Effingham Public Library in Illinois and Erin Scheithe of the CFPB, will discuss resources for librarians who support older Americans, caregivers and guardians.
About the webinar presenters:
Johnna Schultz, assistant director at the Effingham Public Library, believes that the library's primary role is to be a catalyst within the community. The library should always be listening and then responding to the needs of the community either through resources or experiences. Building these connections, especially in rural, small libraries, provides further opportunities for the community and its individuals to thrive.
Erin Scheithe joined the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2017. She now serves as the content and outreach specialist for the Bureau’s Office for Older Americans. Prior to joining the CFPB, she served as the vice president of grassroots at the American Bankers Association and was responsible for encouraging bankers to engage with their members of Congress. The majority of Erin’s career has been spent in the field of financial education. She worked for both the American Bankers Association and North Carolina Bankers Association to develop programs to teach children and parents the basics of financial literacy. She also worked in AARP’s Education and Outreach department, developing resources on financial security issues for the 50+ population. Erin obtained both a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in educational psychology from the University of Virginia.
Emily Mross is a business librarian at Penn State University Libraries. This blog post is part of a series written by ALA's Financial Literacy Interest Group and sponsored by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation.