NIcole Wipp: [00:00:00] Did you know that financial mistakes are one of the biggest signs or symptoms of Alzheimer's and related dementias even up to six years prior to a diagnosis? And according to the journal of health economics, during early-stage Alzheimer's people are up to 27% more likely than cognitively healthy people to experience a large decline in their liquid assets, such as savings and checking accounts, stocks, and bonds.
This fact that Alzheimer's and related dementia people are likely to experience financial loss at a very early stage is one of the biggest reasons why we have to help our family members when it comes to finances and family members and elderly loved ones need to be, or hopefully will be, willing to allow us to be helpful. Because nobody wants financial loss.
This is the smart planning one-on-one podcast. From Honolulu, Hawaii, Aloha everyone. I'm Nicole Wipp, and I'm your host.
In this episode, my guest Cameron Huddleston discusses all of the different ways that gift cards and financial scams can really come to impact our elderly loved ones and the ways that we can help.
Cameron Huddleston is the director of education and content at Carefull, the first service built to organize and protect aging adults' daily finances. Cameron is also an award-winning personal finance journalist and the author of Mom and Dad, we need to talk, how to have essential conversations with your parents about their finances.
Cameron was a caregiver for 12 years for her mom who had Alzheimer's disease. So she also has a really personal connection to this topic.
So welcome Cameron to the smart planning 101 podcast. We're so glad to have you here today.
Cameron Huddleston: I am so glad to be here. Thanks so much for having me
NIcole Wipp: I was really excited because a lot of the things that you talk about, and the things that your company is focused on are things that of course are also very important and very relevant to myself and to my clients. And I just can't wait to hear what you think or what you have to say about some of these things.
My first question is why is monitoring the spending of elderly loved ones important, especially during the holidays.
Cameron Huddleston: It's important at any time because oftentimes Alzheimer's and dementia can be detected in the wallet before in a doctor's office. Believe it or not. Actually, there was research done by Johns Hopkins that found that among those with Alzheimer's and related dementia. There's a pattern of missed and late bill payments up to six years before an actual diagnosis of dementia. Yes.
NIcole Wipp: Wow. Yeah, you're looking at my face and my face is having the biggest wild face, I think. And it's true. That is fascinating really?
Cameron Huddleston: Six years. Yes. And so mom might be, you know well into a cognitive decline and be making mistakes with her finances before you even notice that she starting to forget things, it can take awhile for that memory loss to become a period. And for most of us, we want to ignore it.
And I speak from experience. My mother had Alzheimer's disease and it was easy for me to say, Oh, it's not memory loss. It's hearing loss because she did have hearing loss. And, I kept making excuses for her until it became apparent that it indeed was memory loss. But all along, she was probably starting to make financial mistakes.
Small ones, but making those mistakes and those mistakes can add up. And so it's so important to start getting involved with your parents' finances early on, and I'm talking even in their fifties, you should be having conversations with your parents about their finances, just so that they can. Warm up to the idea of sharing information with you.
That doesn't mean that they had to give you access to their bank account. Then you just want to introduce the topic, get them comfortable with discussing with you and sharing some information with you about their finances. And then as they get older, And the chances that they will start experiencing cognitive decline increase, then you want to start taking a more active role in monitoring their finances.
And it's especially important around the holidays because. The chance of fraud increases during the [00:05:00] holidays. And you don't have to be experiencing cognitive decline to become a victim of a scammer. Scammers can get to all of us, but that's why it's really important during the holidays to be putting, paying particular attention to what's going on behind the scenes and to be watching your parents, spending to listen to those clues that they might be dropping, that they are in trouble and that someone is taking advantage of.
NIcole Wipp: Yeah, that is just so interesting and such good information that you can start detecting these cognitive issues through spending habits. And that makes perfect sense to me as I sit here and I listened to you and I think about. It makes sense to me, but I didn't realize that there had been research around it, which makes it that much more fascinating.
And then of course important. That is just really great information, but one of the things that you talk about that also really interests me is this idea about holiday gift cards. And I was really intrigued by this because you mentioned that this is a particular point of exploitation.
So what is it about holiday gift cards that makes them this particular point of financial exploitation? And then what can we do?
Cameron Huddleston: So I'm sure as you probably know, gift cards are an incredibly popular gift. Year after year, there are surveys that are done that show that people's intention of buying gift cards only increases.
They just become more and more popular every year. And so of course, it's going to seem natural if maybe your aging parents, your aging grandparents are buying gift cards for family members, for the grandkids. It seems natural. There are two primary types of gift cards scheme. One is when you get that call or you get that email telling you that you have to make this urgent payment, maybe it's because, you owe back taxes to the IRS.
Maybe it's, someone claiming to be the grandkid and, oh my gosh, I'm stranded. I have a flat tire. Can you please go to Walmart and get a gift card for me and give me that number that I can use to go buy a ticket. For my car at Walmart does. So you're getting this urgent plea to buy a gift card, provide that color with the gift card number.
They've got the number and then they can go and enter it online and use it. And guess what? You've just lost money to a scammer, and maybe you get a call from mom saying, oh, Hey honey, could you go get me some gift cards? And you don't think anything of it because it's the holidays and you think that mom needs those Amazon gift cards or the iTunes gift cards.
Cause she's going to give them as gifts to the grandkids. So you do it. You give the gift cards to mom and then mom is on the phone with the scammer and she's handing over those gift card numbers to someone who's using them to buy whatever the heck they want. And that's one of the common types of gift card scams.
The other one is the fake gift card or the gift card that's already been used. And you don't realize it and you can come across these, of course, during the holidays there, you might see. An ad online on a social media site. Hey, get great deals on gift cards, discounted gift cards. And so you're directed to the site.
You're buying these gift cards at a discount, but guess what? The gift cards are fake. They've already been used. And then. You're out of money. And so these types of scams really ramp up during the holidays to take advantage of people's generosity. You're letting your guard down because it's the rush of the holidays, and you're just trying to get your shopping done and you're looking for ways to save money.
And so it's really important to be paying attention to your aging loved ones, gift card purchases. Now, how do you do that? That's the challenge.
NIcole Wipp: That is the challenge. And so my, I think my next question for you then is what are some basic steps that you would recommend to help our elderly loved ones protect their finances?
Cameron Huddleston: So it starts with conversation. All of this. It always starts with conversations. You need to be talking to your aging, loved ones about gift card scams.
You can say, Hey, I was just listening to this podcast and they were talking about gift card scans. Here are some of the common scams. You send them an article, you print it out and hand it to them. You leave it on the kitchen counter, let them know what those scam red flags. Are you get a call, someone asking you to buy a gift card.
They want you to stay on the phone. They want you to give the number, or you see an ad for this online gift card auction site, where you can get different kind of gift cards. This is, these are red flags, mom and dad. You need to avoid. Getting sucked into these scans because you don't want to sound judgmental.
You just want to offer them information and you want to let them know that they can come to you. If they have questions or you can point them. For example, to fraud, watch, you can tell them [00:10:00] to sign up with the better business bureau to get their scam alerts. Cause they'll send weekly emails about scam alerts and stuff.
Help raise your parents, your grandparents awareness about gift card scan. That's where it starts. Now, there are ways to monitor your aging, loved ones accounts. If they're willing to let you do this. And that's the real challenge, but it's, if you want to encourage your parents, grandparents, to let you get involved, you want to let them know.
I want to be that second set of eyes for you. I want to help you. I'm not interested in trying to tell you what to do with your finances. I'm not trying to take over here. I just want to help you. And there are services such as careful, and that's careful with two L's that can link to financial accounts.
Monitor those accounts. 24 7 and alert you when something's wrong, like a late or miss payment, like a duplicate came at payment, even gift card purchases, careful monitors for gift card purchases. And it will alert you when a gift card is purchased. So you can either sign up and link your parents' accounts to it, and you give you only access.
So they maintain their independence. You can't make any transactions or your parents can sign up themselves. And if they want, they can add you to their circle of support and you'll get those alerts too, so that you can jump in and say, Hey mom, I just noticed that you bought a gift card. I just want to check in and make sure was that a gift card that you bought as a gift for someone, or did you happen to get a phone call from someone asking you to buy this gift card for them?
It just allows everyone to get on the same page and. Look out for each other. And so that's certainly one thing you can do is take advantage of technology to monitor your parents' accounts, if they're willing to let you do that.
NIcole Wipp: Yeah. And so you, you just said something that I think is really important though, is if they let you do that, because as an elder law attorney, Has conversations with parents, grandparents, and their family members often about money.
I know that there is a lot of resistance to talking about financial matters and might have a little bit to do with the fact that my practice is located in the Midwest where I think there is a little more I dunno, just mental blockage around money and money discussions. But I think it's true just as a global thing and I've noticed.
Even for example, I have clients that strongly resist having conversations about money with me, their attorney, because they're so used to being guarded. And then on top of it, it's not like they trust their children anymore. In fact, weirdly a lot of times my clients at. Me more to have conversations about money, then they trust their own children and it, or it might not even be about trust.
It just might be about habit. It might be about independence. It might be about fear of in-laws or Outlaws as we like to call them. There's a lot of like things that get in people's way of having. The right financial conversation. So my question for you is what do you tell families to do to start or facilitate that conversation even, or especially if it's difficult?
Cameron Huddleston: I know these conversations are difficult for a lot of people, for all those reasons that you mentioned. People think of money as a taboo topic. They don't think it's any of their children's business. And of course these conversations represents a role reversal and it also brings up. Thoughts about aging and death.
In a lot of us don't want to face our own mortality. And if you have to start talking about money and letting you're letting your kids know about your finances, you're doing this because you realize at some point they're probably going to have to get involved. And that's hard for a lot of people to have to wrap their heads around.
And so a couple of things to keep in mind when you're having these conversations for starters, The point of having these conversations is not to point out what your parents are doing wrong with their finances. If you think they are doing the wrong things with their finances, that's not the point of these conversations.
You don't want to appear condescending at all because that's going to shut down a conversation really quickly. The point of these conversations is letting your parents know that you are looking out for their best interest. And that you want to be able to help them if they ever need help. But in order to do that, you need to gather some information.
So this is telling your parents look, mom and dad. I love you. You took great care of me while I was growing up. And I want to be able to return that they route to you, if you ever need. Care yourself, but in order to provide you with care, I need to know what your [00:15:00] wishes are. I need to know what you want, and I need to some information so that I can step in.
If there ever is an emergency. If your parents don't trust you, then maybe you've given them a reason not to trust you. But if you haven't given them a reason not to trust you, then you want to let them know. Look, I don't need to know all the details. Of your bank account. Anyway, but I need to know at least where you bank, it would be helpful to know how do you pay your bills because if something were to happen and you ended up in the hospital, I need to make sure those bills are getting paid.
I need to make sure that, there's still a home for you to go to that the rent's being paid, that the mortgage is being paid so that when you get out of the house, You can go back home. Are you paying by automatic payments or are you writing a check every month in a, so you want to gather that sort of information you want to find out really most importantly, what sort of estate planning document.
Do you have, and maybe you can even start the conversation that way, because it's not really about dollars and cents. It's about planning. And again, I don't need to know what you're leaving me in your will. I just need to know whether you have a will. Do you have something that spells out who's getting what.
When you die, so we don't end up in court fighting over it. I need to know. Have you named someone as your power of attorney to make financial decisions for you? If you can't. I need to know. Do you have a healthcare proxy to make medical decisions for you? If you can't, do you have a, will a living, will this spells out what sort of end of life medical treatment you do or do not want, I need this information because I need to know what your wishes are.
And I need to know that they're in right. So that we can follow through on those wishes. So again, it gets back to, I need, I'm looking out for your best interests, mom and dad. That's the point of these conversations. And if you approach them in that way, hopefully they're not going to think that you're being greedy or you're being nosy.
You just want to be able to help them if they do need help. Of course, they're going to be some parents who continue to balk and that's why it's so important to start having these conversations sooner. Rather than later, because it can take time to get your parents to warm up to the idea of talking with you and maybe they don't ever want to talk to you.
But they're willing to listen to that unbiased third party, like an elder law attorney, like a financial advisor, like an accountant, maybe it's the pastor at their church or the rabbi at the synagogue, their place of worship, reach out to the leader of the place of worship and say, Hey, could you talk to mom and dad about how important it is for them to be talking to their children or trusted family member?
And make a plan so that there are people there who can help them, it's, it makes me really sad to think about people who have not identified anyone. They can trust to help them out as they age, because we're all going to need help. As we age, we need someone who can basically watch out for us, because even if you don't experience Alzheimer's disease or dementia, Our financial decision, making ability to clients with age, which makes us more prone to scams and fought.
And we need someone there. We can trust to help protect us as we get older. And so really everyone needs to be identifying someone who's got their back and can help them out as they get older, whether that's a child, a niece, a nephew, a spouse. An attorney, someone you've got to have someone in. Maybe your parents don't want to talk to you, but you can get them to meet with a professional.
Help them find someone they can trust and maybe they don't want to let you monitor their accounts. But here's the thing about careful, like I mentioned, there, you can create a circle of support. You can add trusted family members. You can even add financial advisors, your attorney, and that person, that advisor, that attorney can get alerts when there's something wrong in your account and can say, Hey.
What's going on. I noticed there were a lot of gift cards purchased recently, is everything okay? Are those gifts, or has someone been calling you and asking you to buy gift cards because you have to make some sort of payment. And so I think if your parents don't want to talk to you, find someone they can talk to and trust because everyone needs someone to be that second set of eyes and to help you as you age.
NIcole Wipp: right. And I think really, to me, to be honest with you, Cameron I love the idea that there is a service out there, like careful that can help people do this. And a sort of non-biased way it's like here is this technology that's helping you understand that there's unusual activity or something along that line.
And so that, that is a. Real benefit, I think to a lot of people. But I also really feel to me that one of the things that you said at the very beginning of this interview that I found [00:20:00] particularly persuasive about why people need to start having these conversations earlier. And why one of the talking points that you can use with parents is, Hey, I just found out.
That you can detect things like dementia and Alzheimer's, it's up to six months or six years before based on spending patterns. And wouldn't it be great if we could get ahead of that be really do medical interventions earlier, et cetera, et cetera, because always whenever you have any type of potentially chronic illness getting in on the ground floor is going to make all the difference in the world.
Wouldn't you rather be able to ward it off as best as you can. This is something that might give us the ability to do that. And this could be particularly important in cases where you know, that these things run in the family. And it's just such a great talking point. It's I think it's a, Hey, obviously there's nothing wrong right now, but this is a tool that we can use to get ahead of that.
Or this is a really interesting piece of information. I think that's something. Yeah, how you said printing out an article, putting it on their table, where they can read it, without commentary, just letting them absorb the information. These are things that you have said earlier in this podcast, too, that I think are just really helpful and you're right.
People don't want my clients that are older with adult children, they don't want the role reversal situation. The. Hated it, they hate it with every fiber of their being. And so if you're the adult child of an aging parent, you need to recognize and respect that you need to recognize and respect that these parents of yours no matter how much they love.
They don't want to be doing, dealing with this and you have to approach it from that level of respect. Cause I, and I tend to be like this myself. I'm a little bit of a bull in a China shop. Partly that's a, my nature as an attorney, but you don't want to be like that with your parents.
Otherwise it's just gonna. It's going to actually do the exact opposite of what you're trying to do. Cameron, I'm sure you've seen that too. If you try to come in and take charge of your parents in an unhealthy or inappropriate way, it's just going to backfire.
Cameron Huddleston: Oh, you can't come in and take over.
And like I said earlier, you can't. Condescending, you can't come in and tell your parents that they're doing things well, and that they're not handling their money well, because that's not going to get you anywhere. And I, these, but these conversations are still so important to have I know they're awkward, but I can tell you from experience, the consequences of not having these conversations are a lot worse.
So just imagine mom now has. Middle stage Alzheimer's disease, you kept ignoring the fact that she was forgetting things you didn't want to address it. Mom has not named a power of attorney, and now she needs help managing her finances because she's making mistakes left and right. She's giving away all her money to charities, to which she has no connection, but she doesn't have the financial.
Decision-making ability to realize that this is not a charity that she shouldn't be supporting. It's not an organization she used to be supporting, but she gets those letters. So she's sending checks left and right. She's making late payments. She's not on top of her finances at all. And you can't do anything because you haven't been named power of attorney.
And now. You have to go through the court process and spend thousands of dollars and hire an attorney for yourself and hire an attorney for moms so that you can be named conservators. So you can have the legal right to step in and start protecting mom's finances, or our mom's had a stroke and she's in the hospital and she hasn't named a healthcare proxy.
And guess what? The doctor's not going to talk to you. And I know this because. Fortunately, I was able to get my mom to meet with an attorney and update all of her legal documents very early on while she was still competent enough to sign those documents. And I was named her power of attorney and I was named her healthcare proxy.
And every time we went to the doctor's office, every time we went to the hospital, the first questions they asked me, are you your mother's power of attorney? Are you her healthcare power of attorney? Because I answered, yes. They were willing to talk to me, right? Not. If not, we would have been in a lot of trouble because who would speak from my mom.
She couldn't speak for herself when she was in the late stage of Alzheimer's disease. And so she needed someone there to look out for her. And I was that person. And I know we don't want to think about getting to that point, but more than half of adults, 65 and older are going to need long-term care.
At some point and you've got to plan for it. You have to have a plan. And that means finding someone you can trust, not just your spouse, because your spouse might not be there to care for you. You [00:25:00] need to have your children, your nieces, your nephews, someone else who's willing to step in and help oversee your finances, oversee your health care.
And if you can find that person, identify them early on and start giving them insight into your finances while you're still helping. And mentally competent, they're going to recognize those signs of trouble, so letting them get that view only access into your accounts, it might seem scary.
Giving people that sort of access, but you're arming your loved ones with the ability to notice those changes and to help you before your small mistakes become really big financial problems. And trust me, long-term care is so expensive. You don't want to be making mistakes with your finances because you're going to need all the money you have to pay for care.
NIcole Wipp: That's right. And so long-term listeners of this podcast will know that I PR the, I discussed this issue of needing powers of attorney ad nauseum because I've seen over and over and over again, the consequences of not having these documents and the. Incredible amount of things that you cannot even imagine that are bad.
That happened as a result of not having these documents. I could spend literally hours talking to my listeners about all the things that I have seen over the years that people never wanted, never expected. And yet. Partially because they did not have proper legal documents. And that might seem a little self-serving to some of you, but the reality is it's just the fact it's what happens.
And I couldn't agree with you more Cameron, about all of those things. And I think bottom line to everybody is if you're the adult. Child of an aging parent and you find this conversation uncomfortable. You need to have it anyway. If you are the parent of children that are adults and you find this conversation uncomfortable, you need to have it anyway, because it is in your best interest to do this.
It is in your best interest aging parent. It is in your best interest to make sure that there are other people that can help you through. These things, because most people don't have enough money to go around losing money to scammers or to things that are inappropriate. Most of us Americans don't have enough money to get scammed or, and certainly don't want that to happen.
And yet scammers. More and more sophisticated every day. It's unbelievable how sophisticated scammers are. And so if you get scammed, there's a lot of shame around it for people, but you have to recognize that it's not because you're stupid. It's because these scammers are very sophisticated and really good at scamming people.
And you are not alone. It's, that's a multi-billion dollar industry of scamming out there. And I don't be ashamed about it. Take care of it. And the way you take care of it is having these conversations, getting something like, get careful, getting people in your life that are going to help you monitor these things, and then you're protected.
And the way you protect yourself is by taking that first step, right? Cameron.
Cameron Huddleston: Exactly. Yes. And if you don't trust your kids to help you with your finances, identify someone else you've got to find someone you can trust. Who's going to be there. To help protect you and your finances as you age?
NIcole Wipp: This has been an amazing conversation, Cameron, I really appreciate your showing up today on the smart planning one-on-one podcast, because these are just things that we all need to be thinking about, especially now going into the holidays and gift cards season, but really like you said, at the beginning of the podcast and every time.
Cameron Huddleston: Yes, definitely. Don't wait to have these conversations start talking now. And I tell you what talking about scams and holiday scams. Great way to start this conversation.
NIcole Wipp: So for sure, we are going to have the links to be able to learn more about get careful. You can get it at www dot, get careful.com.
That's careful with two L's. And also. Getting at questions and advice about handling money matters. They have resources, financial caregiving, roadmap. All of those links will be available as part of the show notes for this podcast episode. So make sure that you access those resources because it's really going to be helpful to you.
I have looked them over and I think that they're really great resources. Thank you again, Cameron.
Cameron Huddleston: Thank you.
So as we finish up this episode, I just want to say. That it is so important to have proper financial powers of attorney. And also to be. On alert for the things that have been discussed on this episode. Because the problem [00:30:00] is if you're loved one, does become diagnosed with something like dementia or Alzheimer's.
You may not have the ability to have access to finances without a court order. If you do not have your powers of attorney in place. So please be aware of this and please take proper action.
Do you have a question you want answered on this podcast, an idea for a podcast, or would you be a great guest for our podcast? I'd love to hear it. Visit smart planning one-on-one dot com forward slash connect and make sure to subscribe.
As always, thank you so much for listening.