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    Elder Client Financnial Abuse

    95 Year Old Investor Beats Elder Fraud!

    We are finally seeing action taken to protect elderly investors from sharks in the financial services business who prey on them.

    A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority panel awarded an elderly investor, David Wolfson, $1.6 million in a case involving StockCross Financial Services Inc. of Beverly Hills, CA. Mr. Wolfson accused StockCross, along with two of its brokers, of misconduct and self-dealing. He claimed the brokers recommended and solicited unsuitable and overly risky investments that were actively traded on margin.

    The claim also alleged that StockCross and the two brokers, Thomas B. Cooper and Peter L. Boorn, put Mr. Wolfson’s home at risk. According to the complaint, they “encouraged and invited Mr. Wolfson to leverage the equity in his home with a reverse-mortgage transaction to utilize as investment capital.”

    According to the complaint, Mr. Wolfson was a client of Mr. Cooper for almost 20 years, when Mr. Cooper dropped the account in 2008.

    A footnote to the lawsuit alleged that Mr. Cooper “quit because he had bilked nearly all of Mr. Wolfson’s assets—including the equity in his home, all his cash reserves, all his emergency/medical cash reserves and even the insurance money Mr. Wolfson received to replace his automobile—and there was nothing left to churn.”

    The arbitrators awarded Mr. Wolfson $320,000 in compensatory damages and $960,000 in damages for elder abuse. They also awarded the 95-year-old $234,000 in legal fees, expert witness fees of $62,000, various costs of $21,000 and $10,000 as sanctions for failing to follow discovery orders.

    Sweet justice! Unfortunately too rare in the financial services industry.

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    Financial Advisors may reprint any articles from The Gift of Communication Blog in your own print or electronic newsletter. But please include the following paragraph:

    Reprinted from Bob Mauterstock’s The Gift of Communication Blog. Subscribe at http://www.GiftofCommunication.com  and receive Bob’s Family Meeting Checklist Guide.

    Are You Listening?

    As our parents get older, we often relate to them as if they were our children and we listen to them in that way. My mother suffered from Alzheimer’s and her conversations would revolve around a few topics: her need for a phone, an eye doctor appointment and another box of tissues. But occasionally she would say something quite profound, and if I weren’t listening to her carefully, I would miss it.

    Being a good listener is a real art. Several years ago I took an excellent training course in Elder Mediation offered by Elder Decisions in Boston.  Sharon, an attorney from Maryland, who was in the course with me,  introduced me to some of the books written by members of the Harvard Negotiation Project.  She shared a book with me written by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton and Sheila Heen entitled, Difficult Conversations, How to Discuss What Matters Most. In this book, the authors describe the key skills to become a good listener.  I think we would all benefit from applying these skills to our conversations with our elderly parents.

    The authors state that truly listening to another person transforms your relationship with them.  They suggest learning to listen “from the inside out.” In other words, listen with curiosity. Ask questions. Paraphrase what your parent says so s/he understands that you understand him/her. Listen for the feelings behind what is being said and acknowledge those when you hear them.

    But don’t let your conversation become an exercise in listening correctly. The heart of good listening is listening with authenticity. People will sense what’s going on inside you if you are not genuine. If your intentions are good, the words you use are not that important.

    The authors remind us that each of us has an internal voice, the voice inside our head that reports what we are thinking, not what we are saying. This internal voice is constantly evaluating everything that is going on, including our words and actions and what the other person is saying. If we are not aware of this voice, it can create havoc with our attempts to listen to others authentically.

    Listen to that internal voice in your head. What is it saying now? (What, me? I don’t have any internal voice.) Don’t turn off the voice, but listen to it carefully.  How is it evaluating what the other person is saying? Get to know the kinds of things your internal voice is transmitting to you so they don’t interfere with your conversation.

    Stay focused on curiosity in your conversation with your parent. Remember that most people, especially elders, rarely perceive that anyone is actually  listening to them. And when they sense that you are authentically paying attention, it will open up their heart.

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    PERMISSION TO REPRINT:
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    Financial Advisors may reprint any articles from The Gift of Communication Blog in your own print or electronic newsletter. But please include the following paragraph:

    Reprinted from Bob Mauterstock’s The Gift of Communication Blog. Subscribe at http://www.GiftofCommunication.com  and receive Bob’s Family Meeting Checklist Guide.

    Give Your Children What They Deserve! Performance Based Inheritance

    Most of our parents don’t really think about how they want their inheritance distributed to their children. Often without much thought, they choose to divide everything up evenly between them, regardless of their children’s situations. In many case,s this can result in anger and hurt feelings for many years after they are gone.

    Let’s take a situation that I have seen very often. A daughter takes on the responsibility of watching over her parents, visiting them daily, cooking for them, driving them to their doctors and in some cases, bringing them into her home or living with them. When they pass, on she gets the same inheritance that her two brothers got despite her exceptional contribution to their well-being and her brothers’ lack of involvement.

    Why does this happen so often? Because most parents don’t want to face the issues head-on with their children while they are alive.They don’t want anyone to be upset. They don’t want to face a possible conflict within the family. As a result, they just split everything up and let the children work it out after they are gone. The conflict and hurt feelings often arise months and years in the future.

    How can your family avoid this situation if your parents don’t want to take the initiative to discuss these issues? It’s time for a family meeting, and it’s often the Alpha child’s job to make sure that meeting happens. Who is the Alpha Child? That ‘s the child who takes the most interest in his/her parents, has their trust and who they will listen to. That meeting often is facilitated by a family adviser or in some cases a professional mediator. When the meeting is over, everyone understands the parents’ position and what they can expect. There are no surprises when the will is read.

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    PERMISSION TO REPRINT:
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    Financial Advisors may reprint any articles from The Gift of Communication Blog in your own print or electronic newsletter. But please include the following paragraph:

    Reprinted from Bob Mauterstock’s The Gift of Communication Blog. Subscribe at http://www.GiftofCommunication.com  and receive Bob’s Family Meeting Checklist Guide.

    Doctors, Watchdogs Against Elder Fraud

    By now most of us have heard about Bernie Madoff and the billions of dollars he swindled from people all over the country. But we may not be aware that this type of fraud, on a much smaller scale, is happening around us all the time. And the people who are most often the victims of these crimes are the elderly.

    About 7.3 million older Americans, or one out of every five people over 65 have already been swindled according to an Investor Protection Trust Survey recently released. Recent research from behavior economist David Laibson shows that people tend to make poorer financial decisions as they get older.

    But some states have taken steps to help seniors avoid these scams. Twenty-three states including California, Connecticut and Pennsylvania have enlisted doctors and other medical professionals to be the watchdogs in the fight against elder fraud. Working through the Investment Protection Trust, state regulators are alerting medical professionals to specific red flags that help identify older Americans who may be more vulnerable to investment fraud abuse.

    In routine visits with their patients these doctors are trained to ask such questions as “Who manages your money day-to-day?” or “Do you regret any financial decisions you made recently?” Other questions include, “Is anyone pressuring you to give them money?” or ” Has anyone asked you to change your will or your power of attorney?”

    More than half of the 67 doctors who were involved in a pilot study in Texas discovered that their patients had been approached with phony financial offers. Financial Planners should also become vigilant in their interactions with their older clients. When I was a practicing financial adviser I learned that one of my older retired doctor clients, in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, had been contacted by scam artists all over the country. They told him he had won a lottery and he needed to give them his bank account numbers so they could wire him the money. His wife had to finally get an unlisted phone number so they would leave him alone.

    Elderly parents often will not share these occurrences with their adult children because they don’t want to be viewed as incompetent or gullible. Therefore it is important that their children discuss these problems with the parents’ doctors and ask them to use the questions I have listed above.

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    PERMISSION TO REPRINT:
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    Financial Advisors may reprint any articles from The Gift of Communication Blog in your own print or electronic newsletter. But please include the following paragraph:

    Reprinted from Bob Mauterstock’s The Gift of Communication Blog. Subscribe at http://www.GiftofCommunication.com  and receive Bob’s Family Meeting Checklist Guide.

    A Caregiver’s Story (In his own words)

    I was suddenly thrown into the role of caregiver on November 21, 2005. This is the day that my wife Heather and I were stunned with the news that she had malignant pleural mesothelioma. Our lives changed from being the happy parents of a three month old daughter to a family thrown into chaos. Plans for celebrating Lily’s first Christmas were replaced with details of Heathers need for immediate treatment.

    As the doctor told us about the illness, my wife seemed to be lost in shock and disbelief. She said nothing as we were given three options for finding a specialist who would provide her treatment. The university hospital was nearby and we could choose the convenience of not having to leave the area for her treatment. Although the regional hospital had a great reputation, a developed mesothelioma program wasn’t available. Dr. David Sugarbaker specialized in mesothelioma, but that meant traveling to Boston.

    It was then that it hit me that my life had changed as much as hers. Heather seemed unable to respond to the doctor with a decision, too shocked and terrified by the news, so it was up to me to choose her care. I immediately told the doctor “Get us to Boston.” Traveling would be inconvenient, but the specialist seemed our best hope, and I was willing to do anything in the world to help her.

    Heather and I had both worked full time up until the diagnosis. After that, I could only work part time because of the time spent making appointments, travel arrangements, and the trips to Boston. Through it all, Lily still needed my attention. Heather, of course, wasn’t able to work at all. The chaos of those first two months was overwhelming. There was just so much to do, and the list continued to grow no matter how hard I tried to accomplish the needed tasks.

    This was when I was assailed by the fears of what the future might bring. I had to face that fact that my wife might die and I would be alone to raise our daughter.. The possibility of losing our home and all of our possessions because of lost income and the cost of traveling for treatments to battle the mesothelioma scared me to the point that I started to bawl my eyes out right on the kitchen floor. The added stress of keeping my fears from my wife and young daughter made me feel isolated and alone.

    I was slow to realize that we had never been alone. Friends and family stood by us, offering words of comfort and even financial assistance. Support was offered by complete strangers as well. We can’t thank them enough, but it taught me an important lesson that I can share with other cancer patients and their caregivers. Accept the help that is offered. The things to worry about are many, and any relief will reduce the stress so that you’re more able to handle the next task on the list. Emotional support may be the best offer of help. It proves that you’re not alone with your burdens.

    It’s not easy to be a caregiver to someone who has been diagnosed with a serious illness. Your life is changed to one full of uncertainty, chaos and stress. It’s a job that you can’t walk away from when you are panicked or overwhelmed. All you can do is hold on to hope, and lean on those who care about you.

    Heather is now cancer free, but months of fighting the mesothelioma through surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy took us away from anything resembling a normal family routine. Although as a family we struggled through some bleak times, we never lost hope. With the support of friends, family, and strangers we were able to keep our sanity and work our way through the life challenge that threatened to destroy us.

    I’ve learned a lot from being a caregiver to a loved one with a serious illness. Possibly the most important lesson is that it takes strength to let go of pride and ask for help. No matter what the challenge, hope will keep you going, and emotional support keeps that hope alive.

    Tending to the needs of my wife and daughter while juggling the medical appointments, travel and normal household responsibilities showed me that I could manage any amount of stress. It also polished my time management skills. I was able to return to school to earn my degree two years after Heather was diagnosed with mesothelioma. Fighting for Heather made me see that I was capable of doing more than I could have ever dreamed.