10,000 Americans will turn 65 every day for the next 10 years. As the population ages and more Americans prepare for retirement, thieves and fraudsters are targeting this vulnerable class. In 2017, $14.5 trillion (or approximately 85% of the United States GDP) was held in self-directed retirement accounts. Forbes has likened the American retirement system to sending a group of mentally and physically impaired and socially isolated people out on a bus with thousand-dollar bills pinned to their shirts- a recipe for wide scale abuse.
There are already clear signs the abuse is spreading. According to a study financed by the Justice Department and published by the American Public Health Association, 1 in 20 older adults said they were mistreated financially in the recent past. The Government Accountability Office also found elder abuse to be a growing epidemic. To make things worse, the Trump Administration and Republicans in Congress overturned an Obama era regulation requiring professionals who handle Individual Retirement Accounts to be fiduciaries, legally bound to act in their clients’ interests; the rule was specifically designed to prevent and deter elder financial abuse.
Some believe we are facing a uniquely American problem given the amassed wealth of our retirees. Because of the U.S. system, which encourages workers to accrue up to ten times their salary in retirement savings accounts, American elder financial abuse is more prevalent than in other nations. A survey of four nations published in the Journal of Elder Abuse and Neglect found the U.S. to have 5 times higher financial abuse rates than the three other subjects. The result of the survey is consistent with the Justice Department’s study and highlights an issue for lawmakers to consider as the population continues to age.
AIDIKOFF LAW has also seen a significant uptick in financial elder abuse cases. If you, a loved one, or someone you know has experienced abuse, please don’t hesitate to call us for a free consultation.