Thursday, March 26, 2015


     Remember when I mentioned that it was important to check on your elders, and I referenced scams, well ...
     Today, I helped a wonderful WWII veteran.  He came into the office and told me that he thought he might have made a mistake.  He wanted to talk to me about it, and it was clear that he was upset with himself.  He had received a phone call from someone purporting to be the IRS.  They told him that he owed back taxes from 2008-2013. They told him that they'd been trying to reach him for several weeks, and this was the final straw. They told him that if he didn't pay up immediately, they were going to seize his home and all his belongings.  They told him that there would be jail time. They yelled at him and threatened him.  They told him to go to the bank and withdraw several thousand dollars and deposit it in an account that they provided him.  There would be paperwork to follow, and his house would be safe.
     Now before you say, obviously this is a scam - the IRS doesn't work that way ... how na├»ve, how frail, I'd never fall for that. Maybe. But this is the second time I've had something like this happen in two weeks.  The last one was to a young man, newly in the country.  They threatened to arrest him, cart him off.  He was reduced to tears in front of me.  He said, "How would I have known it didn't work like that here?" I apologized to him, told him that I was sorry this had happened to him in my country, that this was no way to treat a guest.  These scams happen a lot, and they know who to prey on.
     In both instances, I was very fortunately able to get them their money back before it was too late. But most of the time that doesn't happen.  It's gone, untraceable.  My veteran talked with me a while afterwards.  His wife had died 3 months ago.  He showed me his cell phone with her picture on it.  He told me that he could hear her telling him to come talk to me, to see if I could help him.  He gives lectures at schools and veteran's groups about the war; he gave me his business card.  He's 90 years old and active - still skis.  He carries a laminated picture of the cemetery at Omaha Beach in his back pocket, told me he's been several times.  He called it the cemetery of 17, 18 & 19 year olds - quoted the numbers to me.  He said that whenever someone thanks him for his service, he shows them the picture and says, "Thank them, not me. I was just lucky enough to come back."  
     I sincerely hope that these people who scam those amongst us who need our help and support the most ... I hope they'll see the error of their ways.  And when they don't, I hope they're culled from the herd.

Saturday, March 14, 2015


     I want to talk to you about something serious.  I've been working in the financial services industry for a little over a year and a half now.  Week after week I work with clients who have recently lost a parent, sibling, relative or spouse.  They come in armed with very little knowledge and large expectations.  Every bank is a little different in their process in helping the families of deceased clients, but trust me, there is a process - and sometimes it's lengthy.  It's not because they want to make what is an incredibly difficult time even more shitty.  It's because there's a lot of risk involved in these situations.  Bad people do bad things, and they make it harder on all the rest of us regular people.
     For example, if your father dies, you do not get to walk into a bank with his death certificate and tell the manager that you need a check today.  Not even if you have a will that says you're the executor.  It's not as simple as that.  When I tell you that your name isn't on the account, and I can't give you any information, please refrain from telling me that you're his only daughter - obviously you're a beneficiary ... it must be our mistake.  Not the dead guy that I can't talk to about it.  There is a process.  There is paperwork.  It's done to protect the client and the bank.  Not you.  You're not my client; he was.
     So here's the hard part.  I want you to sit down and have what could be a potentially uncomfortable conversation with that spouse, parent, sibling, maiden aunt - the list goes on and on.  Ask them if they've put beneficiaries on their accounts.  You may not like their answer, but you need to know it.  If they don't want you as a beneficiary, tell them to put a trusted friend on it.  For God's sake, put somebody on it - otherwise it just sits there until the state steps in.  If they're getting older, ask them if they'd consider adding you as a co-owner on their accounts.  Don't wait till the last second to get your power of attorney paperwork in order if they need that level of help.  Don't just check on your elders for the snow shoveling.  Talk to them about the scams that are out there, not to shame them, but to let them know you're their advocate.
     And if they don't want to talk to you about it, you need to gently press the point until they understand that this is a big deal.  In the last seven months, I have met so many grieving partners and children who have been burdened by a ton of work just to be able to have access to money to pay the bills or a funeral home.  I've met mothers who have suddenly lost grown children, sisters who lost siblings unexpectedly, partners who told me that their beloved had only gone into the hospital for something minor, widows who swore he had only just been diagnosed.  It can happen so quickly my friends.

Thursday, March 5, 2015


     A client I met recently stopped by the store today and brought her granddaughter.  Tiny, she looked to be around 5 or 6.  I hustled myself over to meet the little one.  We'll call her Claire.  After the introductions were made, my client broke into traditional show-off-the-kid mode. 
     "So Claire, what do you and I have in common."
     "Both our names start with the letter C."
     "Excellent!  And what else do we have in common?"
     "We're both Capricorns."
     "Yes!  And what is our family motto?"
     "You'll live."

     I swear to God, I fell to the floor with laughter.  My client was quick to let me know that their real family motto is "Never give up," but I'm thinking about embroidering "You'll Live" on something.