Listen to this podcast from a senior interested in investing.
Certain vulnerabilities make seniors susceptible to fraud or being taken advantage of when investing. Some seniors have none of these vulnerabilities, but many have one or more.
Not being familiar with technology can cause you to miss some of the signs of investment fraud. If you have just begun using email, social media, and other online platforms, you may trust official-looking emails or fake websites or documents from scammers. You might not know how to use technology to research potential investments or investment providers. You may not look at your investments online or read account statements that are emailed to you.
Vision or hearing loss
Carefully reading your investment documents, including the fine print, can help protect you from poor investment decisions and investment fraud. But poor eyesight can make this hard for many seniors. Losing some of your hearing can also make you vulnerable. You might avoid important conversations with financial professionals or miss out on getting all the information you need.
Changing investment goals
If you have been investing for retirement, your focus and goals change as you get closer to that time. Rather than saving and investing as much as possible, you may be figuring out how to get money out of your investment accounts in the safest and smartest way. This change in your investment goals and timeframe often means a change in your risk tolerance and overall investment strategy. If you have a solid financial plan, you and your planner will have prepared for this. If you don’t have a financial plan, think about getting one right away.
Changing saving and spending
Sometimes seniors have trouble switching gears from investing to using the money they saved and earned from investing. Your financial advisor may benefit financially from you continuing to invest and make less money when you stop investing or start taking money out. If so, their interests are different from yours. They might discourage you from making the changes that are right for you. As a senior making these investing changes, getting advice from someone who is not in a conflict of interest is especially important.
Fear about the future
Worrying about not having enough money for retirement causes some seniors to chase high investment returns. Then they take more risks than they should. If you started investing late, you might try to make up for lost time. Studies show that experienced and fairly sophisticated senior male investors are one of the groups most susceptible to investment fraud related to this issue.
Loss of independence
As seniors age, they may lose mobility because of physical or mental changes. They may become more dependent on others or socially isolated. When you lose your spouse, partner, siblings, and trusted friends, you may rely on people who are not trustworthy. If you need help with day-to-day tasks that involve your finances, you might give people access to your banking or investment accounts. Social isolation or loneliness may cause you to ignore warning signs of someone taking advantage of you. This can even happen with family members. If you enjoy a person’s attention and company, the threat of losing this might worry you as much as losing money. This can lead to you being financially abused.
Loneliness and social isolation
Social isolation or loneliness can also make you more vulnerable to fraudsters who target your social circle. Seniors who don’t want to miss out on something sometimes follow the crowd. And if someone you trust, like a clergyperson, speaks well of an investment opportunity, you could be more easily taken advantage of.
This guide can help
The Investor Rights and Protection Guide is for all investors. But the tips below will help you, as a senior, get the most out of this guide.
When reviewing Investments and Income Tax, think about how withdrawing funds from your retirement accounts will affect your income tax. Whether an account is registered, and under which plan it is registered, is important when deciding how much to withdraw and when.
When reviewing Risk and Return, think about how your shorter investment timeframe impacts your tolerance for risk and your need for certain levels of return.
When reviewing Rights for Deposit-type Investments, think about how low-risk investments might become a more important part of your investment portfolio in your retirement years. If you have guaranteed investment certificates, look carefully at the term, penalties and re-investment instructions. Make sure your money will be available without penalties when you need it.
When reviewing Rights for Security-type Investments, think about whether you are comfortable getting your investment account information online. You might prefer to have monthly printed account statements mailed to you. It can take practice to become comfortable with reading information online, but you can make the letters larger on your emails or magnify documents on your computer to make online reading easier.
When reviewing Rights for Security-type Investments, think about how an advisor/registrant’s conflict of interest can put you at greater risk when it is time to withdraw funds from the accounts they are paid on. Remember to update and sign your investment goals and risk tolerance profile to make sure that your investments are still suitable in your current situation.
When reviewing Investment Fraud and Other Concerns, think about visiting the Investing Information for Seniors https://nssc.novascotia.ca/seniors section of the Nova Scotia Securities Commission (NSSC) website for information tailored to the needs of seniors.
When reviewing Fraudster Investment Schemes, think about whether social isolation or dependency on others could impact your risk of being a victim of investment fraud. Feeling financial pressure in retirement to increase returns or avoid income taxes can also make seniors vulnerable to certain schemes.
When reviewing Recognizing a “For-sure” Fraudster, think about checking online to see whether someone is registered to sell you investments. Ask for help if you are not comfortable using a computer or cell phone to do this yourself.
When reviewing Advisor/Registrant Wrongdoing, think about how to make it easier to read your statements. You want to be able to see your fees and how your investments are performing. You might also see signs that your advisor is doing something wrong.
When reviewing Fee-for-service Financial Planners, think about how important it is to have advice from a well-qualified and independent financial planner when you are at the stage of withdrawing money from your investments. These planners will look at your overall financial situation instead of focussing only on your investments.