A third of over-55s have felt vulnerable making a financial decision
13 January 2021
It’s hard to imagine why someone would take advantage of another person’s age, but unfortunately, it does happen. Analysis by Age UK found that ‘an older person in England and Wales becomes a victim to fraud every 40 seconds’, with single older people at an increased risk of being targeted. This has been reflected in a recent study by more2life, which found that ‘close to a third (30%) of homeowners over the age of 55 have felt vulnerable when making a financial decision’.
One of our missions at 55Plus Equity Release is to make the process as transparent as possible; regrettably, this latest research shows not everyone providing financial services to the over-55s shares our philosophy. It therefore begs the question: what can be done?
What makes someone vulnerable
Of course, not everyone aged 55 and over is vulnerable. There will be many people in this age group still pursuing a demanding career, as well as challenging leisure activities (yes, MaMILS – we’re thinking of you!) crammed on top of a full social life (when restrictions allow!), who could give Stephen Fry a run for his money in a general knowledge quiz.
One of the key ways to tackle vulnerability amongst the over-55s making a financial decision is therefore to recognise the key factors that might make someone more susceptible to unscrupulous operators. More2life has published a summary of things to consider when determining whether a client might be at risk:
- Health: If someone has a physical or mental disability, addiction, or cognitive disability, they could be more vulnerable than others in their age category.
- Life events: Traumatic events, such as bereavement, domestic abuse and relationship breakdown, can leave a person at increased risk of making an uninformed financial decision. It’s also important to consider that this event might not necessarily be obviously traumatic; regular milestones such as retiring can also put pressure on financial decisions.
- Resilience: Low savings or debt could also make a person more financially vulnerable.
- Capability: Not speaking English or a lack of support are just two factors which could impact an individual’s capability to understand the decision they are making.
How can we tackle financial vulnerability among the over 55s?
At 55Plus, we have always endeavoured to ensure our customers feel as confident as possible when they’re taking financial decisions. Here are some of our top tips for empowering over-55s (and anyone else making a financial decision):
- Understand key vulnerability factors: We train all our staff to ensure they are aware of certain criteria that might make a person more vulnerable. Unfortunately, research shows that ‘81% of [equity release] advisers believe there is a need for greater education and more resources in the equity release market to help them identify vulnerability’.
- Talk plain English: We always want our clients to understand what we’re talking about, so we make sure we use language that’s easy to understand. Again, more2life found that 73% of equity release advisers thought literature on releasing equity could be more accessible, meaning that unfortunately, our ethos is not reflected across the whole of the industry.
- Invite family and friends to consultations: We always encourage our clients to invite their loved ones along to meetings to ensure that everyone is clear on the financial decision at hand.
- Communicate with other interested parties: At other times, it might be useful to liaise with other parties such as carers and lawyers to ensure that an individual is making an informed decision and their best interests are properly represented.
Empowering our clients
At 55Plus Equity Release, it’s always been our mission to put our clients first and make them at ease, as our founder and Managing Director, Jan Johnson, explains: “It’s absolutely shocking that nearly a third of over 55s have felt vulnerable making a financial decision and the statistics about the specific targeting of the elderly and how often it happens are even more horrifying.
“I’m proud to be leading a company whose ethos is built upon integrity; our advisers all share the same goal in empowering their clients to make informed decisions based on independent and good-quality advice.”
If you’d like to discuss whether releasing equity is right for you with someone that you can trust, then one of our advisers will be more than willing to help.