Don’t Get Rooked by Scams: 7 Tactics to Stop Con Artists from Stealing from Retirees

Guest Post by Douglas Goldstein, CFP®, author of Rich As A King: How the Wisdom of Chess Can Make You a Grandmaster of Investing.

How do con artists target you?

Rip-offs come from many different angles, including healthcare and health insurance fraud, counterfeit prescription drugs, funeral and cemetery shams, anti-aging products, telemarketing cons, internet deceit, investment schemes, reverseRich As A King 3D cover.jpg mortgage and life insurance rackets, and more. Sadly, not only do strangers harm seniors, but also people close by hurt them as well.

The FBI catalogues common frauds perpetrated against people who grew up in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, a time when being polite and trusting was considered a virtue. Regrettably, these deeply engrained traits also make those generations easier marks. Moreover, older people tend not to report scams because they don’t know whom to tell, are too ashamed, or don’t even realize that they have been swindled.

3 case studies of retirees who were scammed

Not long ago, an elderly client told me how she had lent the Visa card that was linked to her brokerage account to her son to use for the day. She forgot about it, since she rarely used that card herself. It took her almost a year to discover that he had been using it to steal money from her on a regular basis by withdrawing funds from a cash machine. He would take only small amounts, so that she wouldn’t realize that the changes in her portfolio were due to withdrawals. She would just assume her stocks and bonds had dropped a little in value. Another woman’s nephew, who was a lawyer, told her that he was investing her money with a major, international investment house. He even printed false statements with the logo of the company on it. When she asked for her money back, he told her the investment house had gone out of business. And yet another client kept lending money to help a sick friend pay for medical care. Half a million dollars later, he finally said to himself that something is very wrong here… and then the sick friend disappeared.

When I told these stories to Susan Polgar, my co-author of Rich As A King: How the Wisdom of Chess Can Make You a Grandmaster of Investing, she quickly pointed out the chess analogy: Never blindly jump to capture an opponent’s chess piece, since he may intend to sacrifice it in order to get a much larger compensation from you. Stop and think about the whole plan and why he’s giving you something for free.

Practical steps to take when someone offers you a deal

Unlike in chess, where the rules prohibit consulting during a match, in the financial world, it’s advisable to consult with a professional before you make a move. Keep these steps in mind to protect yourself:

  • Double check with trusted family members, lawyers, accountants, financial advisors, and other professionals before you commit to any major deals.
  • Regularly inspect your credit report for suspicious activity. Get it for free every year from each of the three credit rating agencies. Go to to learn how to get your own credit report.
  • Never do business over the phone unless you initiate the call.
  • Make sure people don’t crowd around you when you withdraw money from an ATM.
  • Be wary of all links and websites that someone emails you. If you get an email from your bank, for example, that asks you to click on a link, don’t! Instead, log into your account the way you normally do and see if any messages await you there.
  • Never respond to emails that ask for your account information.
  • Review your bank and brokerage statements on a regular basis, and ask your financial advisors questions if you don’t understand why the balance changed more than you anticipated.

What you need to know about avoiding scams

Susan Polgar, the world chess champion who wrote Rich As A King with me, once told me over a game of chess… as she captured piece after piece of mine… that the way to avoid getting your assets snagged from under your nose is by having a well thought-out strategy at the outset. If you develop a financial plan along with a Certified Financial Planner™ professional, you can then tell anyone who approaches you with a quick-money scheme, “No thanks. It’s not part of my plan.” And if he really persists, ask him to give you the proposal in writing and show it to your advisor to get his input.

Thinking strategically and planning ahead not only helps keep your financial life on track, but provides an easy way to benchmark whether or not you’re meeting your goals, and provides a safety net to prevent you from falling into a scammer’s schemes. Sticking to your plan, and avoiding dramatic moves is a simple way to minimize the chances you (and your money) will fall into a scammer’s hands.

Contact Douglas Goldstein, CFP® or learn more about Rich As A King: How the Wisdom of Chess Can Make You a Grandmaster of Investing at

Doug Goldstein will be my guest on my November 25th episode of my Revolutionize Your Retirement Expert series. Click here to see our upcoming episode.

How Many Balls Are You Juggling?

by Guest Blogger Denise Archie

How many balls are you juggling …………………..and who gets the crumbs? Where is the fun factor?

Do we on a daily basis consider all aspects of our lives? For example, has anyone ever come home from work and their loved ones asks, “Darling what would you like for dinner?”’ and our response is, “I don’t care, don’t ask me!”

Yes, you have used up your decision- making voucher at work and your family gets the crumbs.

How do we ensure that the lovely part of us turns up every day in all that we do and say, and no-one gets the crumbs, especially ourselves?

So how many balls are we juggling on a daily basis?

Some of the “balls” may include family (all members),  work relationships, friends, hobbies, social activities, our health and wellbeing, our creativity, and self-expression, finances, career, time management, concern for the environment, concern for humanity, volunteer work and our own personal development.

When we consider all of these aspects of our lives and we put our energy into them, it’s easy to feel that there is not a lot left over. Does this feel familiar to you?

Since I work in the leadership and management space, I often ask the participants about their career track. It is interesting that those who began in a “trade” area and move to management mention that the one thing they really miss is the tools. I then ask them where in their calendar (whether it be once a month or every two months) is time allocated for you to spend time with the team on the job. – Is this an example of settling for the crumbs.

Do we need to settle for crumbs in our relationships? Who has trained you to leave them alone?

Do you ever feel like you never have a “win” in a particular relationship?

One of the lessons I learned very early in my own personal development was to use a strategy that my children played which was “guess the person who I have on my head?”

If I was to ask you to think of someone that you get on really well with– what would the label be above their heads. ……. Friend, confidant, someone you can trust?

If I was to ask you to think of someone that you don’t get on so well with– what would the label be above their heads? ….yes that one!

What I realised was that when we meet someone,  we all have a label that we place on their heads  (whether consciously or unconsciously) and that is how we speak to them.

Let me share a story:

A friend of mine had a very important meeting to attend. On a scale of 1 – 10 of excitement, his was about minus 100. I asked him, “What was the label he saw or had a sense of above this person’s head?”

His response was far from complimentary.

I asked if he could consider changing the label and see a “lovely lady” – his response was, “She is no lady.” I asked if he could see a lovely lady – we laughed. He went off to his meeting and rang me once it was over. I asked how the meeting went and he said it went surprisingly well. I asked him what label did he see above her head and he said “lady.” That was a big step up for him.

So let me ask you – what labels do you have above the heads of your colleagues and/ or some family members?

Would a change in the label result in a change in your tone of voice and responses to their conversation, and  stop” the crumbs”  from being in this relationship?

So what are you going to do to stop accepting crumbs in any part of your life? What is one action you can take right here right now?

About Denise Archie

Denise_ArchieDenise is an entrepreneur and is recognized as a ‘pioneer’ in the area of vocational education and training, coaching and mentoring, and elearning. Over the last 20 years, Denise has founded and built several businesses, including one of the first in Australia in online learning. (Imagine during 1998 explaining to potential clients how online learning works, and could change the way training was delivered – she was viewed with much scepticism – read ‘as though she had two heads!’)

Denise is recognized as a leader and one of Australia’s experts in her field of learning, development and innovation. During this time Denise has worked successfully with over 40,000 people, from many blue chip companies across Australia and New Zealand. She has conducted workshops, and as a professional coach and mentor, has created powerful transformational results both personally and professionally for her clients, allowing empowering life changes to occur.

You can read more about Denise at 

Time Together/Time Apart: Parallel Play in the Second Half of Life

In The Couple’s Retirement Puzzle we talk about Time Together and Time Apart as one of the “must-have” conversations for transitioning to the second half of life. It’s not unusual that partners have differing expectations.

For example, Mary, a woman who had primarily worked at home didn’t want her husband, Frank, around all of the time. In fact, she didn’t want him to retire from his work until he had a plan. She didn’t want him sitting around, being bored, maybe rearranging the kitchen cabinets, wanting her to cancel her plans so she would be around and basically being dependent on her for their social life.  A stereotype? Yes. Something that often happens? Yes.

Judy, in contrast, expected that her husband would want to do everything with her and she looked forward to it. He, however, wanted to pursue some other interests that she didn’t share.  Morris wanted to sell their home and move to Florida.  Ruthie, in contrast,  hated Florida and wanted to stay in the family home and live near the grandchildren.  Although never spending time apart, they finally reached a creative solution. He rented a condo in Florida during the winter months and she stayed in their family home. Result: they ended up enjoying their time apart and learning new things—and saw that their relationship improved when they were back together. Thomas, in preparation for retirement,  learned to play a new musical instrument and joined with other musicians for “gigs”  while his wife continued in her usual activities, getting together with her friends and volunteering. Creativity in how to spend time together and apart is crucial for couples, whether you’re married or not.

I recently read an article in the WSJ Article on September 9, 2013,  by Psychologist Maryanne Vandevere. From my perspective, she expanded on this notion of time together and time apart in an interesting way. She wrote about the role of parallel play in the life of retirees. She pointed out that, similar to small children, who play side by side and don’t always interact with the activity,  successful retirees have a similar process when each learns something new, follows their own passion and their partner also does their “own thing.” Each develops their own interests and it enhances their relationship since both are happy, enjoying their own creativity and mastery. This can bring new energy and excitement to the relationship.  It works for kids—why not give it a try in the second half of life?

Vandevere comments that “individuals who do almost everything together in later life—who are “joined at the hip” usually aren’t as satisfied or fulfilled as couples where spouses have their own interests and, ideally, are learning new skills. She points out that “the model of parallel play meets the needs “for both freedom and involvement.”

What are the benefits, you may be asking?  Vandevere suggests a few, such as more interesting dinner conversations, confidence for each that you can function independently and “tonic for the soul” to have some time and space for separateness and self-reflection. She also points out that challenging oneself can bring both mastery and pride and, as the old adage says, “absence (often) makes the heart grow fonder.” I like her image that “parallel play gives you ‘roots and wings’ and allows you to grow.” She further states that “It promotes the major task for this stage of life: becoming as whole as you can be. “

My suggestion: talk together about your expectations about time together and apart and creatively think about the notion of parallel play in your life and relationship. In the process, you can challenge and develop yourself and have more to bring back to your partner. I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas on this.

September: A Time for Reflection

senior man reading in library As someone who has lived in the East, Mid-West, West and now Northeast, I’ve watched seasons change in a variety of ways; some more dramatically and others more subtly. Seasonal changes always mark transitions with the endings, “in-between” time, and new beginnings. The month of September marks one of these transition times. From the time I was young, September carried with it the sadness of the end of summer but also the excitement of “new beginnings,” with the start of a new school year and, for me, also the Jewish New Year, which usually occurs in September (based on the Jewish calendar.) My non-Jewish friends and colleagues also talk about the importance of September for them, too, with memories of starting school for themselves and/or children. Many have said that although they don’t celebrate the Jewish New Year, they, too, have learned from some of the rituals. The rituals are actually in keeping with mindfulness and intentionality in our approach to life.

I like the juxtaposition of endings and new beginnings—it creates a time for self-reflection, gratitude and forgiveness. It’s a time to focus on and let-go of the past year to move forward and embrace the coming year, hopefully with some new learning and resolve. One of the traditions of Rosh Hashanah is a service called Tashlich, when you go to a body of running water and throw little pieces of bread into the water, to symbolically acknowledge and throw away your mistakes and “sins” from the past year. It’s part of the process of getting ready for Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. I like these rituals since they help bring these actions into clearer focus. In his Yom Kippur sermon, our Rabbi emphasized that in addition to atoning for our mistakes of the past year, the holiday philosophy implores us to live each day to the fullest since our one life is finite. He stressed the importance of appreciating our life and our relationships. We can all learn from evaluating our past deeds and appreciating the life that we have, as we move forward.

Admittedly, I set goals and resolutions at the end of the calendar year and also spend time reflecting over the past year—but September feels different. As a seasonal transition from summer into fall, it reminds me of my youth and growth and feels hopeful and joyful. The bittersweet aspect is that it also helps me prepare for and anticipate the changing colors and eventual falling of the leaves and then winter, symbolically reflecting the passage of time and aging. Perhaps the goal is to use seasonal changes as well as the actual dates of the New Year to establish our own rituals for reflection, gratitude and forgiveness. Life is too short to take it for granted. As a mini-step in the process, it’s actually wonderful to take time at the end of each day to reflect on our blessings as we let go of the day and prepare for the new beginning of tomorrow.


Fast Time and the Aging Mind: In Support of Life-Long Learning

senior man reading in libraryIf you discovered that challenging yourself and keeping a steep “learning curve” while you were aging would help you slow down your sense of time passing too quickly,would it influence you to want to learn more? I believe in life-long learning anyway, but the article discussed below has actually strengthened my resolve to continue to challenge myself and learn. Part of my interest in life-long learning is the”use it or lose it” notion of exercising our brain, but now it also seems that it can help modify our sense of time passing so quickly.

I recommend an article from July 21, 2013 in the NY Times by Dr. Richard A. Friedman (see link below.) Dr. Friedman is a professor of clinical psychiatry and the director of the psychopharmacology clinic at the Weill Cornell Medical Center. So often we hear people talk about our perception that time passes more quickly as we age. I know for myself, I feel like I “blinked three times” and my son was suddenly older, I’m older and each season and year seems to fly by, often at what feels like a startling rate. I find my “anxious self” worrying that if it keeps going this fast, I may not be here for some of the milestones that are so important to me. Does this resonate for you?

However, even though this is a sense so many of us view as “a truth,” it’s hard to prove experimentally. This notion is what Dr. Friedman calls a “cognitive illusion.” He cites studies in Germany, France and the US. There are many non-age related factors that seem to influence our perception of time such as emotions, attention and memory. As he says, “to accurately gauge the passage of time required to accomplish a given task, you have to be able to focus and remember a sequence of information.which is why this is difficult for someone with ADD. On the whole most of us perceive short intervals of time similarly, regardless of our age.” “Why then,” he asks, “do older people look back at long stretches of their lives and feel it’s a race to the finish?” Dr. Friedman posits that our sense of time is a “cognitive illusion” and there are ways to understand it and ways to slow down “the velocity of time.”

He asks the question “Does learning new things slow our internal sense of time?” It’s fascinating to think about some of the studies he’s mentioned as well and some examples of the different sense of time from childhood through aging. He suggests we think back to what it was like when we were learning something for the first time-for example, learning to ride a bike, how to walk home from school, how to swim or drive a car. I had an interesting experience recently at a parent’s class for driver’s education for teenagers. I realized that I no longer separated the components necessary to learn to drive. I took it all for granted, but needed to break the steps down into manageable learning sequences to be helpful to my son.

This experience seemed to support Friedman’s comment that “It takes time to learn new tasks and to encode them in your memory. When you’re learning about the world for the first time, you are forming a fairly steady stream of new memories or events, places and people. When, as an adult, you look back at your childhood experiences, they appear to unfold in slow motion probably because the sheer number of them gives you the impression that they must have taken forever to accomplish.” As I recall, it seemed to have taken forever for me to learn to feel confident and competent driving, and now I take it for granted. I also recall more recently when I was trying to learn a new language (Hebrew) for my adult Bat Mitzvah, time slowed down since the learning curve was so steep for me. Friedman suggests this is merely as illusion of the ways adults understand the past when they look through “the telescope of lost time.”

The important point that he makes (which is not an illusion) is that “almost all of us faced far steeper learning curves when we were young. Most adults do not explore and learn about the world the way they did when they were young: adult life lacks the constant discovery and endless novelty of childhood.” “Studies have shown that the greater the cognitive demands of a task, the longer its duration is perceived to be.”Friedman offered an example of his father who, after he retired, read about everything from astronomy to natural history, travel and gardening. He realized his father never commented on how fast or slow his life seemed to be going. He was constantly learning, always alive to new ideas and experience. Perhaps this keeps us from noticing that time is passing.

He also wonders if it really matter that we, as older adults, have an illusion about time speeding up? He states, though, that “It matters because the distortion signals that we might squeeze more out of life.” “It’s simple,” he asserts, “if you want time to slow down, become a student again. Learn something that requires sustained effort; do something novel. Put down the thriller on the beach and read something about a new theory. Take a new route to work or your house, vacation at an unknown spot-and take your sweet time about it.”

Part of the take away for me is that by learning new and novel things as we age may open us to being able to enjoy doing so and savoring our new learning and accomplishments, rather than feeling the anxiety that time is passing so quickly that “I have to do everything yesterday.” It can be an urgency that, to some degree, energizes us, but also can immobilize us with anxiety and sadness. It’s easy to lose perspective and feel sadness that time is passing so quickly and “I won’t be here to do or see such and such.”

I prefer the idea that through a philosophy of life-long learning we can actually slow down our perception of the fast pace of time, keep our brain stimulated and functioning well and enjoy the approaching years rather than dread their passing so quickly that we go through the motions of doing new things-but perhaps not enjoying them-but merely trying to fend off “the grim reaper.” We really do need to stop and “smell the roses” and savor the moment, but also, in an active way, up our learning curve and perhaps, by being and doing new things, actually control some of this “cognitive illusion/ distortion” about the passage of time.

Read the article here.