Explore our broad assortment of information and materials to learn more about how older adults make financial decisions. Whether you are a finance professional, psychologist or caregiver, you’ll find resources relevant to your needs.
Research & Publications
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, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/07317115.2019.1569190
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, https://doi.org/10.1080/08946566.2018.1556762
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
Training & Education
Videos & Webinars
Deepen your knowledge by watching Dr. Lichtenberg present webinars to the National Adult Protective Services Association and conduct an actual Financial Vulnerability Assessment.
A carefully vetted list of credible organizations that provide safe, accurate information about protecting older adults from financial abuse and preventing financial exploitation.
Start Training to Use the Interviews
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
Explore questions and answers around financial decision-making terms and concepts
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.
Some of the terms used in assessing financial decision making are academic, medical or legal in nature. Find simple, accurate definitions of these profession-specific terms here.
The ability of an individual to manage his or her own money and financial affairs and make relevant decisions while keeping in mind possible financial and legal consequences of those acts.