How can we reduce the number of people who fall victim to financial fraud, and how can you avoid becoming a victim?
Few things make my blood boil and strengthen my resolve to help people in retirement than seeing reports of fraud against older Americans. It hurts the investor, it impacts the investor’s family and community (like a reduction in charitable donations), and it frankly makes my job of earning people’s trust a lot harder.
I plan on dedicating several posts to some basic steps you can take to protect yourself and the ones you love. The first and most important step?
Do Your Homework!
Would you purchase a home without getting an inspection? Would you feel comfortable if the seller’s offer was only good for 48 hours? Would you want to know the annual cost of owning and maintaining the house? The answers to these questions seem obvious, but people will consider buying a financial product without getting similar answers. What steps can you take to perform adequate due diligence?
- Get a second opinion. An educated outside perspective (not coming from someone who can sell you the same product or an alternative) can help you better understand the product, appropriate uses for it, and learn what questions to ask before purchasing. (You can learn more about adviser designations and seeking out a fiduciary adviser here.)
- Take your time. Unless you proactively sought out help to fix a critical issue (and I’d say even then), insist on time to step back and reflect on the product offer. Allow the excitement or fears stirred by the sales pitch to subside and let your critical thinking skills have a chance before you sign the dotted line.
- Know the costs. Know what expenses the type of product carries (here are some helpful posts on common insurance and mutual fund expenses) and request disclosure of the costs. Remember, higher than average expenses do not always mean you should not buy – sometimes you need a Mercedes even when you could buy a Honda. Just know what additional benefits you receive for the extra cost!
I now ask you to make a small effort.. Right now, think of 3 people you know that are near or in retirement. Send this to them and ask them to do the same. Share it on Facebook. Join me in the fight against financial fraud. This trivial amount of effort on your part could help save someone from making a catastrophic mistake!