Resources For Professionals

Research and Publications

The complete bibliography of Dr. Peter Lichtenberg’s published research on assessing financial decision-making and vulnerability in older adults. This list of research & publications on financial decisions of older adults examines how to assess the critical factors that increase vulnerability to financial abuse. Read the Department of Justice’s overview of Dr. Lichtenberg’s work here.

Most Recent

  • Peter A. Lichtenberg, Maggie Tocco, and LaToya N. Hall 

    The rise in scams against older adults has caused more frequent Adult Protective Service investigations into these cases. One possible predictor of scam involvement involves the assessment of informed financial decision ­making. This study examined 175 scam APS cases using a 10-item financial-decision making tool.  Results showed 2/3 of the sample displayed deficits in decision ­making. The decision-making tool was effective in differentiat­ing those with deficits from those without. This research illustrates the types of deficits endemic to scams and how use of the Financial Decision Tracker can be used to detect vulnerabilities and promote conversation to fhelp prevent scams.

    Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect; https:/ /
  • Work to understand the subpopulations of older adult financial exploitation victims and their experiences is greatly needed. This study uses betrayal trauma theory (BTT) as the foundation for conceptualizing the harm that arises from elder family financial exploitation. Older adults who were victims of elder family financial exploitation had significantly lower functional ability scores, higher stress and financial exploitation vulnerability scores and lost more money on average than those victimized by strangers. BTT provides a valuable framework for understanding why older adult family financial exploitation victims are more vulnerable than victims of exploitation committed by strangers.

    Aging & Mental Health, DOI: 10.1080/13607863.2023.2199688 April 2023
  • Adult protective services (APS) agencies investigate cases of financial exploitation, and a
    critical aspect of such investigations is often the assessment of decision-making abilities. This study examined APS workers’ implementation of a 10-item financial decision-making screening tool, the Financial Decision Tracker (FDT), across a 34-month period.  839 scales were administered. Individuals with no decision-making deficits were slightly older and had completed high school at a significantly higher rate (69% vs 59%, χ 2(1) = 5.20, p = .023) than those who had decision-making deficits. The implementation trial can be considered a success. The FDT is now an APS best practices tool.

    Gerontologist, 2023, Vol. 63, No. 3, 501–510
  • By employing a person-centered analysis of checking and credit card statements and using a semi-structured interview, the clinician was able to assess the financial management and decision-making skills of an older adult.
    Conclusions: Clinical gerontologists have an ethical prerogative to enhance autonomy where possible. Analyzing a person’s actual financial management records as opposed to hypothetical and perhaps unfamiliar financial tasks may represent a step forward in person-centered assessment of financial management and capacity. / Clinical Gerontologist 31 Jan 2023
  • This study examines the cross-validation of the LFDRS Scale to assess its concurrent validity with a measure of executive functioning and suspected financial exploitation (FE).
    Conclusions: These findings are consistent with the initial validation study of the LFDRS and adds evidence supporting the LFDRS concurrent validity.
    ● The LFDRS can be used in clinical assessments of financial capacity.
    ● The LFDRS can be a useful tool for assessing decision-making capacity in those who have been exploited. / 2023
  • We demonstrate an alternative method for assessing personal finance using person-centered principles, which we believe are critical in the presence of diminished or impaired cognition. Our findings offer an innovative method for assessing the risk for wealth loss and financial exploitation. Our results indicate that the methods used to analyze checking account statements, followed by telephone interviews to verify identified trends, were useful in developing a financial behavior index to measure wealth loss.

    Innovation in Aging cite as: Innovation in Aging, May 19, 2022, Vol. 6, No. 5, 1–8
  • Older adult financial exploitation (FE) is increasing. This study investigates a conceptual framework to understand how financial stressors and resources are associated with substantiated FE in Black older adults. The older adults who sought services to address FE was more likely to be unmarried and had fewer years of education. Measures of financial literacy and perceived financial vulnerability had protective and risk effects. Sociodemographic and financial stress and resource measures have significant relationships with FE. This new conceptual framework provides a guide to understanding vulnerability to FE in older adults.

    Innovation in Aging, 2022, Vol. 6, No. 2, 1–10, Feb 28, 2022
  • This study examined the relationship between contextual measures of financial decision-making and the financial exploitation experiences of older Blacks, and the convergent validity of mental health measures of contextual decision-making items. Results underscore the significant relationship of the contextual factors involved in financial decision-making and financial exploitation. This study provides a conceptually driven approach to understanding the experiences of older Black adult victims of financial exploitation.

    Journal of Aging and Health 2022, Vol. 0(0) 1–10: Contemporary Research on Older Black Americans
  • A recent research study assessed SAFE’s (Successful Aging thru Financial Empowerment) impact on the financial, mental, emotional and physical health of older adults who had been victims of financial exploitation. At the onset of the study, persons who had been victimized had more health problems, poorer memory, less social support, and greater stress than a comparable group that had not been victimized. Six months after financial coaching with SAFE ended, however, SAFE clients showed significantly less anxiety.  Results indicate that SAFE’s coaching, recovery and education services can help financial exploitation victims alleviate stress and protect cognitive, mental and emotional health.

    Journal of Financial Counseling and Planning, Volume 32, Number 1, 2021 /
  • The authors create and provide evidence for a new Financial Exploitation Vulnerability Scale (FEVS). This study examined the criterion validity of self-reported memory complaints and living alone on FEVS risk scores. Participants were the first 258 individuals, 60 years or older, who completed the FEVS on the website. FEVS risk scores were significantly correlated with years of education, self-reported memory complaints, and living alone. The majority of variance was attributed to the self reported memory complaints measure.
    Conclusions: Older adults with memory complaints are in need of a perceived financial vulnerability assessment. The FEVS is a valuable self-report tool clinical gerontologists can use in intake assessments and follow-ups.

  • The Financial Decision Tracker (an on-line 10 question assessment of a recent financial decision or transaction) was administered to 445 adults aged 60 years of older during APS investigations of financial exploitation. APS workers administered the FDT as part of their financial exploitation investigation. The main findings of the study supported Appelbaum and Grisso’s decision-making model and that specific items related to understanding and appreciation of a financial decision could differentiate between individuals with and without financial decision-making deficits.

    Clinical Gerontologist,, April 6, 2021
  • One challenge in Adult Protective Services and other human service works is implementing
    empirically validated tools into regular practice. This is evident is the assessment of financial decision-making abilities in cases investigated for financial exploitation. After training, over 500 screening scales (Financial Decision Tracker) were administered across a 12-month period, with 50% of results showing deficits in financial decision-making. In 88% of the time, the APS workers assessment concurred with the risk rating of the web-based system on Response to implementation from APS workers was also largely positive.

    Journal of Elder Abuse and Neglect,
  • This tool serves a need in many professional settings (e.g., doctor’s offices and Adult Protective Services) for a brief, standardized assessment measure of financial exploitation risk. This measure also provides actionable information for professionals to follow up with the standard of care for their clients.

    Clinical Gerontologist, Oct 2020,
  • This study represents both a conceptual and empirical contribution to our understanding of older adult’s perceptions of financial vulnerability. The high levels of Perceived Financial Vulnerability found in this normative sample underscore the importance of context in understanding people’s economic behaviors.

    Gerontological Society of America Innovation in Aging, 9-7-2020, doi:10.1093/geroni/igaa039
  • Contextual items in the areas of financial, psychological and financial insecurity, were different in adults who had been exploited versus those who were not exploited.  It is, therefore, important to measure these contexts when assessing financial decision-making and exploitation. A new Financial Exploitation Vulnerability Scale to measure these contextual items is introduced.

    The Gerontologist, March 25, 2020, doi:10.1093/geront/gnaa020
  • The Success After Financial Exploitation (SAFE) program provides financial education and coaching to older urban adults, many African American. SAFE participants repaired their credit scores, reduced new financial burdens, and even recovered monies. Participants assessed prior to services performed worse on executive functioning than controls. Clinicians should attend to the financial health of older clients who may suffer from cognitive deficits and poor physical and mental health.

    Clinical Gerontologist, Jan 29, 2019,
  • We examined the psychometric properties of a new informant-report scale (Family & Friends Interview or FFI) of financial decisional abilities in older adults. The full scale had adequate sensitivity and specificity to detect an informant’s current concerns regarding financial exploitation. The FFI is useful for collecting informant reports regarding an older adult’s ability to make financial transactions.

    Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect, Dec 20, 2018,
  • Adult Protective Services (APS) professionals must often assess decision-making capacity when investigating financial exploitation. This study investigated the LFDSS’ ability to detect financial exploitation in 105 clients of APS workers across 5 counties. LFDSS demonstrated excellent internal consistency and clinical utility, supporting its use as a reliable and valid instrument. Includes instructions for its use plus online support tools.

    Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect, Nov 2018, DOI:10.1080/08946566.2018.1531098
  • Peter A. Lichtenberg, Evan Gross & Rebecca Campbell
    The shortened version of the Lichtenberg Financial Decision Rating Scale is confirmed as a valid and efficient tool to assess real-world financial decision-making abilities in older adults.
    Clinical Gerontologist, Oct. 15, 2018
  • Validating the utility of a scoring system for the Lichtenberg Financial Decision-making Rating Scale

    Clinical Gerontologist, June 25, 2018
  • Easy-to-administer, 10-item tool detects when persons may not be making informed financial decisions. The Lichtenberg Financial Decision Screening Scale (now called the Financial Decision Tracker) can be an important screening for financial professionals.

    Certified Senior Advisors Journal 71/Vol 2, 2018
  • This study: (1) empirically tested the conceptual model proposed by the Lichtenberg Financial Decision Rating Scale (LFDRS); (2) examined the psychometric properties of LFDRS contextual factors in financial decision-making by investigating both the reliability and convergent validity of the subscales and total scale, and (3) extended previous work by collecting normative data on financial decision-making. Results confirmed the scale’s reliability and supported the conceptual model.

    Clinical Gerontologist, 41(1), Aug. 2017
  • These analyses examine the psychometric properties of the Lichtenberg Financial Decision Screening Scale (LFDSS) to evaluate the decisional abilities and vulnerability to exploitation of older adults.The results supported the uni-dimensionality of the item set. The LFDSS performed well in terms of IRT reliability and information provided, and can be recommended as a short screen for financial decision-making capability and vulnerability to exploitation.

    Journal of Elder Abuse and Neglect, (June 2017) 29, 213-228
  • This article examines the conceptual model introduced in 2015 (Lichtenberg, Stoltman, Ficker, Iris, & Mast) and empirical evidence for the reliability and validity of the measure’s rating scale.

    Journal of Mental Health Care, (June 2017) 1, 1-3
  • We investigated the internal consistency of the Lichtenberg Financial Decision Screening Scale and its criterion validity based on ratings by professionals using it. Results demonstrate that the LFDSS has excellent internal consistency and clinical utility properties. This paper supports use of the LFDSS as a reliable and valid instrument. Instructions for use are included plus information about online tools and support.

    Innovation in Aging, 2017, Vol. 00, No. 00, 1–9
  • We review research on financial exploitation and financial capacity pointing to the importance of numeracy in financial exploitation, and how decision-making abilities relate to financial exploitation. We discuss our new conceptual model.

    Clinical Gerontologist, 40(1), August 3, 2016
  • One challenge in preventing the financial exploitation of older adults is that neither criminal justice nor noncriminal justice professionals are equipped to detect capacity deficits. We introduce a new screening scale for older adults to assess financial decision-making. Details of our pilot study of 29 older adults seen by Adult Protective Services workers and 79 older adults seen by other professionals plus case studies are included.

    Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect, 2016, VOL. 28, NO. 3, 134–151
  • This article examines the intersection of financial exploitation and decision-making capacity and introduces a new conceptual model and new interview tools for both the investigation and prevention of financial exploitation.

    American Psychological Association, American Psychologist, 2016, Vol. 71, No. 4.312-320
  • Banks can reduce the financial exploitation of older adults by (1) proactive planning between financial service providers and customers, (2) continuous education of financial services providers about cognitive impairment and how to identify financial transactions that put the older adult at high risk for exploitation, and (3) adopting our new person-centered method to assess financial decision-making in high risk older adults.

    The Gerontological Society of America, Public Policies & Aging Report, 2016, Vol. 26, No. 1, 15–17
  • Using cross-sectional data, psychological vulnerability correlated with older adult’s being defrauded. Psychological vulnerability was a potent longitudinal predictor of fraud, with the most vulnerable individuals more than twice as likely to be defrauded. Results indicate that fraud victimization among older adults is rising, and that vulnerability variables, plus some demographic variables, predict new fraud cases.

    Clinical Gerontologist, October 2015
  • This study examines preliminary evidence for the Lichtenberg Financial Decision Rating Scale (LFDRS), a new person-centered approach to assessing capacity to make financial decisions, and its relationship to self-reported cases of financial exploitation in 69 older African Americans. Study findings suggest that impaired decisional abilities may render older adults more vulnerable to financial exploitation, and that the LFDRS is a valid tool.

    Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect, August 18, 2015
  • This study introduced the rating scale, its development and initial inter-rater reliability. Contextual factors such as financial awareness, psychological vulnerability and susceptibility to undue influence or exploitation can impact core decision-making abilities that affect legal standards for making a contract, will, gift, etc.. Inter-rater reliability was good across several raters.

    Clinical Gerontologist, 38:49–67, 2015
  • In this policy brief, Dr. Lichtenberg summarizes knowledge of cognitive impairment and dementia, particularly as it relates to financial capacity and financial exploitation. He then provides an overview of efforts to reduce financial exploitation and presents a new tools front-line providers can use to assess an older adult’s capacity to make specific financial decisions.

    Syracuse University Aging Studies Institute Policy Brief, Nov. 2014
  • For many financial planners, the 65-and-older population makes up a significant portion of their client base. making it increasingly important to prepare for issues involving financial capacity. Planners need to be aware of the potential financial vulnerability of older clients and know what action to take to protect and serve them. We provide planners with the most important issues and practice management tools to best serve these clients.

    MetLife Online Journal, April 2014
  • Financial exploitation, and particularly thefts and scams, are increasing at an alarming rate. We (a) determined the national prevalence of older adults who report having been a victim of fraud, (b) created a population-based model for the prediction of fraud, and (c) examined how fraud is experienced by the most psychologically vulnerable older adults.

    Clinical Gerontologist, 36:132–146, 2013.
  • The intense focus on Alzheimer’s disease has led even experienced practitioners to misdiagnose older adults’ cognitive impairment as Alzheimer’s. The impact of misdiagnosis may be greatest in cases of capacity, especially conservatorship and testamentary capacity. As the older adult population grows, clinical gerontologists will continue to assess capacity, and accurate diagnosis is essential for accurate assessment.

    Clinical Gerontologist, 35:42–56, 2012