Financial Vulnerability Survey
For older adults.
Answer a few questions to determine your risk of fraud, scams and financial exploitation.
If you are concerned that your financial decision-making is changing as you age, this survey can help. Your results are completely confidential. The computer does the scoring for you — you simply print or download the results. Next Steps suggest ways to protect yourself if you are at increased risk.
Watch the Overview
The Financial Exploitation Survey referred to in the overview is now called the Financial Vulnerability Survey.
Are You At Risk?
Financial Vulnerability Survey
Start Financial Vulnerability Survey Start
These questions are designed to uncover how at risk you are of being financially exploited based on how you make financial decisions.
Our research was able to identify victims and non-victims of financial exploitation based on their answers to this questionnaire. Take it now to determine how likely you are to become a victim.
How It Works
- Watch the brief OverviewFollow the prompts to better understand the Survey and get maximum use from it. Viewing is optional but highly recommended.
- Fill out the secure information formBefore you take the Survey, answer a few questions to help us with our research. You and your answers are completely anonymous. We never collect information that could identify you.
- Complete the SurveyThe computer provides scoring, interpretation of results, and next steps.
- Download and/or print the reportPrint or download your report answers immediately to have a copy for your records. Your report will not be accessible later. This is for your security and protection.
A SAFE Counselor is on your side
SAFE educates, coaches, protects and empowers older adults and caregivers who need help managing their finances. SAFE can help prevent fraud and identity theft, as well as assist in recovering identity and funds if you have been a victim.
Peter Lichtenberg, PhD, ABPP
Dr. Peter Lichtenberg is a national expert in financial decision-making and financial exploitation in older adults. An award-winning author and researcher, he is committed to empowering independence and protecting those most vulnerable.
Start Training to Use the Interviews for Professionals
Certification is simple and straightforward. Our convenient online training shows you how to administer the assessments to achieve accuracy and reliability. Training to become certified to use the Decision Tracker and the Family & Friends Interview is available to all professionals. Training and certification to use the Vulnerability Assessment, however, should be completed only by a mental health professional.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes.Training insures that the interviews are conducted reliably and effectively to produce the most accurate results. Our trainings are designed to be easy to follow while insuring mastery of the interview skills.
Influence or coercion by someone who intentionally uses his or her role and power to deceive and exploit the trust, dependency, and fear of another and gain decision-making control. The influencer uses various techniques or manipulations over time to gain power and compliance. These can be so subtle that the victim doesn’t realize he or she is being manipulated. Many cases of financial exploitation result from undue influence.
Some common signs are:
- Significant gifts to people like caregivers, service providers, and acquaintances outside the usual sphere of the older adult’s love and commitment.
- Gifts to anyone that are so large they threaten the older adult’s economic security.
- Loans, particularly if undocumented, to anyone.
- The older adult’s fiduciary (such as an attorney or trustee) making decisions that reflect poor judgment or conflict of interest.
- Estate planning documents naming non-family members as fiduciaries or beneficiaries.
- Joint accounts with non-family members.
- Checks prepared by others but signed by the older adult.
- Bequests or other arrangements favoring one child, particularly if that child lives with the older adult.
- Large discrepancies between the older adult’s understanding of his or her estate and its true value
- Excessive fees charged by professional finance managers such as trustees, attorneys, financial advisors and stockbrokers.
A conservator is a person (family member, friend, or paid professional), agency or institution appointed by the court to make financial decisions for someone a judge has determined is unable to make such decisions.
A guardian is a person (family, friend, or paid professional), agency, or institution appointed by the court to make personal decisions for another. Unlike a conservator, a guardian’s authority is often limited by statutes and can also be limited by the judge to specific tasks or decisions based on the retained capacities of the person.
A power of attorney is a legal instrument used to delegate authority to another. The person who signs a power of attorney is called the “principal,” and the person to granted the authority is delegated is the “agent.” A “durable” power of attorney enables the agent to act for the principal even after the principal loses capacity to make decisions, and is effective until revoked by the principal or until the principal’s death. A durable power of attorney generally refers to financial decisions and can be an effective alternative to guardianship, allowing an individual to plan for the control of his or her affairs in the event of incapacity.
The law starts with an assumption of capacity, which refers to decision making regarding a number of financial tasks, such as general financial management of assets and debts, writing checks, paying bills, knowing and using currency and coins, making contracts and writing wills. Financially incapacity means a person is unable to manage their financial resources. This can be the result of a number of conditions including mental illness, dementia, drug use, physical illness and disability. Determination of incapacity is complex. Psychological evaluations, medical reviews, as well as legal standards (that vary from state-to-state) are used in the determination.
Contact us and we can work with you to bring Older Adult Nest Egg to your company or organization. Adult Protective Services employees have already been trained in several parts of the country, and we are researching use of the Tracker in Virginia, Minnesota and New York. The Michigan Alzheimer’s Disease Center has also made the Tracker interview part of its longitudinal study on cognitive changes.
Motivational interviewing tries to change behavior by gently moving a person from indecision and uncertainty and toward making positive decisions and accomplishing established goals. The technique helps people resolve their ambivalence and insecurities through empathetic listening, helping clients become aware of discrepancies between their goals and behavior, avoiding arguments and direct confrontations, and supporting self-efficacy and optimism.The client is central and is guided to generate the arguments and solutions for change.
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On-going research is critical to refine and continuously improve our assessments and interviews. We periodically recruit older adults to cross-validate the Financial Vulnerability Assessment. We continue to collect and analyze de-identified data from client interviews in older adults from across the country, many of them Adult Protective Services workers. The Michigan Alzheimer’s Disease Center also includes the Financial Decision Tracker in its longitudinal study on cognitive changes, comparing Tracker results against cognitive status.
ABPP — American Board of Professional Psychology
AD — Alzheimer’s Disease
APA — American Psychological Association
APS — Adult Protective Services
FDT — Financial Decision Tracker
FFI — Family & Friends Interview
FTC — Federal Trade Commission
FVA — Financial Vulnerability Assessment
LFDRS — Lichtenberg Financial Decision Rating Scale (now named the Financial Vulnerability Assessment)
LFDSS — Lichtenberg Financial Decision Screening Scale (now named the Financial Decision Tracker)
NAPSA — National Adult Protective Services Association
OANE — Older Adult Nest Egg
POA — Power of Attorney
After an account holder completes an interview, a Risk Rating is generated for the client. This shows, on a gradated color bar from green to yellow to red, the client’s relative degree of risk in making that specific financial decision. Green indicates little or no concerns or risk in the decision. Red indicates high risk and serious concerns. Red is a call to action for further testing or intervention. A numerical score is also assigned and next steps are suggested. In cases of high risk it may be wise to repeat the interview or assessment to insure data was entered correctly and the results are valid.
Published research validating the FDT (LFDSS) risk scoring.
Yes, you have the option to delete an interview by clicking the Delete Interview button and following the prompts.
You can assign the actual date of contact to the interview. Once you enter the results of the interview, you will have an on-screen option to alter the date assigned to the interview. If you do not alter, the program will default to the date you entered the data.
The most important caution surrounds the person’s cognitive capacity. You must be sure that the person who is assigning you POA demonstrates the thinking and awareness skills to freely execute the document. Your intentions may be honorable and you may feel certain the person comprehends what he or she is signing, but the documents may come under legal scrutiny if the person is later found not capable of making sound decisions. Have a cognitive assessment completed by an professional to allay any suspicions now or in the future.
Families come in myriad shapes and sizes that can become complex with divorce and remarriage. Communication and transparency are critical to build and maintain trust among all family members. Often, though, the specific details and decisions of caregiving fall to one or two key family members. Be proactive and discuss who those people might be before a crisis occurs. Then be clear about expectations and compensation for these “designated caregivers.” Are they empowered to make financial and medical decisions and, if so, to what level? Be sure the arrangement feels fair to all involved to avoid resentment. Also check in with the caregivers every few months to see if they still feel comfortable and competent in that role. Caregiving can be stressful and joyful at the same time. If you aren’t the caregiver, find ways to provide the emotional and financial support they need to succeed.
If stronger measures are needed to unite the family’s goals, consider mediation which can often be done at little or no cost through your local Legal Aid Society.
Yes. The legal standards for informed decision making are the same for all adults age 18 and older, so both the FDT and the FVA would provide valuable and credible information.
The type of account you open will give you access to the materials best suited to your needs. The types of accounts are Professional and Caregiver. Professional accounts provide assessments to be administered primarily by people with social service or financial training. Caregiver accounts offer an assessment the caregiver can take on behalf of the person they care for. We also recommend that Caregiver accounts be set up on a desktop computer or a tablet. Formatting can shift on a phone screen, making it hard to enter information.
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