Money Smart for Older Adults: Success Stories From the First Two Years
Much has taken place since the 2013 launch of the Money Smart for Older Adults (MSOA) curriculum, which was created by the FDIC and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to help teach older individuals and their caregivers about how to prevent financial exploitation and plan for a secure financial future. The Baby Boom population-those born in 1946 through 1964- is increasingly entering retirement. Unfortunately, there is also an increase in the financial abuse of older adults. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that approximately five million older adults are victims of elder abuse every year. There is even an annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (held in mid-June). In this edition of Money Smart News, we highlight several organizations that are successfully using the MSOA curriculum to inform and protect seniors and their caregivers:
- Empowering and Strengthening Ohio's People (ESOP), a nonprofit, HUD-approved housing counseling agency in Cleveland, Ohio, uses MSOA to offer workshops on identity theft and financial exploitation. The goal of its Senior Financial Empowerment Initiative is to educate older adults how to be financially secure and stable. ESOP partners with financial institutions, libraries, churches, senior homes, and community centers to teach older adults throughout Northeast Ohio. The six workshop sessions cover topics ranging from identifying and avoiding financial abuse to setting financial goals and understanding affordable financial products.
"The seniors we work with are mostly living on Social Security, or maybe a small pension, and they don't think they have any money that can be stolen. But in the course, we show them they really do have assets to protect," said Rosalyn (Roz) Quarto, ESOP's Executive Director. "We also follow up with individual coaching to help them budget, save, pay off debt and apply for benefits to which they are entitled. We hope this will help them age in place with dignity and some financial stability."
Workshop attendee Cynthia Clark said she learned to monitor her checking account at least once a week, and because of that, she discovered unauthorized withdrawals. "First I got a new bank card and a new PIN number," she said. "Anything that's not right or I haven't done, I notify the bank."
ESOP is training its nonprofit partners across the country with the MSOA curriculum and offering them best practices in setting up financial education workshops for seniors. To date, ESOP has trained partner agencies in Miami and Sacramento, and more sessions are scheduled in Chicago and Seattle.
- The District of Columbia Office on Aging (DCOA), in collaboration with the CFPB and the D.C. Elder Abuse Prevention Committee (Committee), offered MSOA sessions in senior wellness centers and other community venues. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2014, presentations were made to more than 500 participants. In FY 2015, efforts are under way to deliver MSOA to more than 1,500 seniors, their family members, caregivers, and social and financial services professionals. And in connection with National Crime Victims' Rights Week (April 19 to 25, 2015), the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia recognized DCOA and the Committee for their efforts to combat financial exploitation using MSOA.
- State Employees' Credit Union (SECU) and the North Carolina Division of Aging and Adult Services formed alliances in 2014 with organizations that included nonprofit and service groups and local governmental agencies to increase awareness of financial exploitation of older adults. SECU hosted seven MSOA Train-the-Trainer sessions to teach 300 employees and volunteers from these organizations how to offer the curriculum, many of whom later used the curriculum to educate older adults in their communities.
Senior Vice President Debbie LaBarbera said that SECU's collaboration with the state government to deliver MSOA training "has resulted in awareness and education regarding the red flags of abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation for our employees and the citizens of North Carolina." And Nancy Warren, Program Administrator at the Division of Aging and Adult Services, added, "We continue our MSOA work together during 2015 as SECU hosts and facilitates additional training sessions in multiple areas of North Carolina with our strategic partners."
- AgeOptions, a nonprofit organization in Oak Park, Illinois, networks with community-based senior service organizations to connect residents with vital services. AgeOptions uses MSOA for the community education component of its "iFAST" (Illinois Financial Abuse Specialist Team) initiative, which is being piloted in the Chicago area to counter financial exploitation. In 2014, iFAST taught MSOA to more than 100 older adults. This year, a total of 16 classes will be provided by early fall to reach up to an additional 400 individuals, thanks in part to the financial sponsorship of a health insurance company and a utility company.
The presentations have been well received. To date, 100 percent of the attendees have rated the sessions as "very good" or "excellent" and have either "agreed" or "strongly agreed" that they are better able to recognize and reduce the risk of elder financial exploitation as a result of attending the MSOA session.
Jonathan Lavin, President of AgeOptions, said that his organization was pleased to partner with federal and state government agencies and other community-based organizations "to do everything possible to warn older persons and their families" about financial abuse and how to "avoid the tragedy of lost or misdirected resources and savings for what often are misguided purposes."
- The Vital Aging Commission of Olmsted County, in Rochester, Minnesota, which provides advice to the county government on issues affecting older adults and their families, offers MSOA classes to small community groups in the area. They are also working with Olmsted County Adult Protective Services and Rochester Community and Technical College to develop a segment for public-access television.
"Our next step is to market this TV program to increase awareness about the frequency of financial exploitation and fraud in older adults in our own area," said Pamela Nelson, Chair of the Vital Aging Commission. "Partnering with Adult Protective Services gives us an opportunity to work together to not only identify the problem, but also to provide resources available in the community."