When the National Initiative for the Care of the Elderly set out to measure elder abuse in 2015, it found that about one in 12 Canadian residents age 55 and older (8.2 per cent) had experienced elder abuse in the previous 12 months. For 30 per cent of those people (1 in 40, or 2.6 per cent), the abuse was financial. That translates into 244,176 Canadians fending off demands for their money, fighting to access their money or sometimes losing their money – in a single year.
Responding to worrying statistics like this, the Canadian Securities Administrators (the umbrella organization representing all Canada’s provincial and territorial securities regulators) recently recommended that advisors ask their clients for the name of a “trusted contact person” (TCP) they can get in touch with if they have concerns about a client’s financial exploitation or diminished mental capacity.
WATCH: TCP 101, a video about your ‘trusted contact person.’
To benefit from an additional safety net, consider connecting your advisor to a close friend, family member or caregiver who can be trusted to ensure your best interests come first. If your advisor’s dealer does not already have a procedure and form regarding the TCP, you should encourage them to adopt one.
It’s important to emphasize that a TCP is not the same as a power of attorney – another person your advisor should have on record. A power of attorney has authority to make financial decisions on your behalf under certain circumstances, such as if you become incapacitated. The TCP, in contrast, should have absolutely no interest or involvement in making financial decisions for you. In fact, the TCP is someone an advisor can reach out to if they feel your power of attorney isn’t acting appropriately.
That said, like a power of attorney, the TCP must be someone who has earned your trust and who you are confident will act in your best interests. Think about how anyone you’re considering would react if your advisor called to discuss concerns about your recent financial decisions or memory lapses. Would the potential TCP listen to your advisor with an open mind? Just as important, is the potential TCP someone you would hear out if they in turn raised those concerns with you?
Once you have someone in mind, share the information from “TCP 101” (below) with your potential TCP. It is important for a TCP to understand exactly what the role is and is not. For example, it is an opportunity to help protect you if you become financially vulnerable, either because of age-related mental health issues or because other people in your life try to take advantage of you. It is not a licence to make decisions for you or to reduce your control over your own financial affairs. From your advisor’s perspective, it’s also not authority to share information with the TCP about your financial accounts, unless you’ve given separate permission for this.
Sadly, elder abuse is a reality for too many Canadian seniors. Naming a TCP allows your advisor to call the person you’d prefer if they suspect something is amiss. It’s a way you can provide an additional safeguard for your money and your well-being. It’s also an important part of good financial planning. Consider sharing this option with any loved ones who could also benefit from another layer of protection.