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Friday, August 16, 2013

Green Light, Red Light, Yellow Light Approach for Certified Senior Advisors


Clients should always have a written will expressing their intentions for inheritance. Ideally, a will should be prepared by an attorney, but some written document is essential in any case.

Always read labels on food products to determine ingredients and additives.  If unsure about a specific ingredient, look up information about that ingredient on a neutral source, such as Wikipedia.
Always ask your doctor about possible side effects of any medication prescribed for you.  In addition, check up through a reliable website source (e.g., U.S. government agency or major university research group) to gain additional information about interaction among different medications.
Consult the Social Security website ( to get a reliable forecast of what your benefits from Social Security will be at retirement.

Comparison shop for financial products, such as mutual funds or insurance.


When facing tough decisions, try using the "Ben Franklin" method.  Sit down with a piece of paper divided into two sides and then write down all the reasons for, and against, the decision on two sides of the page.  Then put the paper aside and look at it again in a day or so, and, if necessary, revise it.

Never agree to be a client of an advisor or consultant without receiving clear and full disclosure from that advisor about how the advisor is compensated.

Never agree to be a client of an advisor or consultant without checking out the reputation of that person in ways that go beyond recommendation from a friend or relative.  Take time to check out reputation to make sure that the advisor or consultant is right for you.

Never send money to unknown parties promising financial returns or requesting help in an "emergency."  These are just a few of common scams that target seniors as victims.

Never believe claims or assertions simply because "I read it on the Internet."  Examine closely the sponsorship and reputation of any website that you visit for information.

Never believe claims for any medication or intervention that promises to "slow or reverse aging."  Biological science has never come up with any such intervention, despite ongoing research efforts to find such approaches.  It may be that success will come some day.  So far it hasn't happened.  Interventions that make false promises can pose a risk to health or money or both.

Advise people planning for a serious surgical procedure get a second opinion.  Advise clients contemplating a major financial move to get a second opinion.

Long-term care insurance can be a useful financial tool in planning.  But whether an insurance product is right for an individual depends on specific circumstances and the policy in question.

Be cautious in following financial advice given by famous TV personalities, even if these personalities appear on familiar or well-known channels (CBS, Public Broadcasting, etc.)

If a financial opportunity or a healthcare product seems "too good to be true," then it probably is too good to be true.  Look for hidden costs and risks when any offering looks "irresistible."

When making major decisions about money or medicine, give yourself a "waiting period" like 24 or 48 hours to consider factors that may have been overlooked.

When getting advice from people, friends or professionals, always find out if they've considered both sides of the question or problem at hand.  Always find out if they have any vested interest in how you make your decision.

Blog posting courtesy of Dr. Harry R. Moody, Ph.D.
Director of Academic Affairs, AARP

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Hoarding Can Be a Serious Issue

Excerpts from June, 2013 Senior Spirit

Hoarding has become a serious enough problem that it is the topic of TV shows and news stories. Although prevalent across society, the act of collecting and keeping more possessions than you can use appears to be more common among seniors than other age groups. In a way, it makes sense; by the time you’ve reached your sixth decade, you’ve accumulated a lot of stuff.

Yet hoarding goes beyond not being able to let go of your old 78 or 45 records (even though you don’t have a record player anymore) or your notes from that college history class. People who are serious hoarders have a hard time controlling their behavior and can be a danger to themselves. For example, accumulated trash can impede movement and block doorways, lead to fires and attract insects or vermin. Further, important documents and bills can become lost in the clutter, which can lead to financial problems. On the whole, letting your possessions overtake your dwelling and life can lead to a poorer quality of life.

Warning Signs

 Here are some indications of hoarding:
  • Accumulated piles of mail and unpaid bills
  • Difficulty throwing things away
  • Picking up free, unneeded or worthless items
  • Extreme levels of disorganization and clutter, which intensifies over time with powerful emotional attachments to stuff Difficulty walking safely through your home
  • Frustration trying to organize
  • Difficulty managing activities of daily living
  • Expired food in the refrigerator
  • Jammed closets and drawers
  • Compulsive shopping
  • Difficulty deciding whether to discard items
  • Expired medications in medicine cabinets
  • Using the bathtub for storage
  • Keeping papers and magazines on and under beds
  • Storing magazines and shoes on steps 

Reasons for Hoarding
Experts say that seniors are prone to cluttering for various reasons, including anxiety, depression, fear of loss, not knowing how to get rid of possessions or wanting to hold onto memories. For many hoarders, specific items that no longer hold any intrinsic value, such as a beloved prom dress, still carry strong memories. Hoarders may fear that memories or the past will be lost without that tangible evidence. Seniors often fear what will happen if they give up trivial possessions. Some older adults have been known to save three generations of bank statements because they think they might need them someday.

Many hoarders feel like they are “rescuing” unwanted objects and animals, which gives them a sense of importance, purpose and responsibility. They convince themselves that no one else can take care of the animals, for example, as well as they can.

For a senior hoarder who has lost friends and family, possessions can become a companion, and thus, the more the better. Loneliness can lead to depression, which makes it difficult for seniors to get organized, and a hoarder can start believing that the host of a TV shopping show is a friend. Buying a lot of goods may give the hoarder a momentary high of getting a good deal, an action he or she has to repeat to continue that good feeling. At the same time, with cable TV, Internet and other technological avenues, it’s easier than ever to buy things. And many older adults still carry a Depression-era mindset of wanting to save items for a rainy day.

To read the full length of this article, click here. 

Have you helped someone get through the process of hoarding? We'd love to hear from you. Please share any tips you might have with us in the below comment box.

Content provided by the Society of Certified Senior Advisors