In November, the National Indian Council on Aging, Inc. (NICOA) is hosting two FREE online webinars that will teach attendees how to become trainers of a financial empowerment program called Your Money, Your Goals. The program is from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and focuses on helping people to reach their financial goals, bring cash flow budgets into balance, order and fix credit reports, reduce debt, and avoid financial tricks and traps.
NICOA will bring a unique perspective to this program by providing Your Money, Your Goals through the lens of Native culture and traditions, focusing specifically on how to reach and provide culturally appropriate examples and training for American Indian and Alaska Natives. Attendees will also get PDFs of the Your Money, Your Goals toolkit and companion guide called Focus on Native Communities.
On top of the Native focused Your Money, Your Goals program, NICOA is also offering two versions of the training, one for Housing and Workforce Professionals and the other for Title VI Elder Services Professionals. If you are part of either professional group, work with Elders or American Indians and Alaska Natives, or you would just like to learn more about how to better your own finances, please consider registering for this great program that you can bring to your community.
Why is This Program Important?
Finances can be overwhelming for many people, and a variety of factors can increase financial challenges, especially for Elders.
Economic barriers are a significant challenge for many who already feel that finances are overwhelming, and these barriers in turn can create additional challenges, often related to health.
Low-income households, especially people that live and work in areas where there is a lack of employment or educational resources (which disproportionately include racial and ethnic minorities), often experience a lack of access to healthy lifestyle options. Low-income households also have an increase in morbidity and mortality rates compared to higher income households. Poverty alone serves to increases barriers to services and makes everyday life harder for Elders.
Economic barriers also prevent many people from managing daily tasks and challenges, and negatively affect their ability to plan for the future, including retirement. Behavioral economic research shows that low-income households are often so overwhelmed by their money worries and challenges that their “mental bandwidth”, or the capacity of the brain’s ability to perform basic functions, becomes dramatically reduced. Because of this many people become unable to see beyond their immediate crisis causing other parts of their life to fall through the cracks, like paying bills or other important tasks. Furthermore, this constant worry creates stress, which adds to the overwhelmed feeling of financial insecurity and vulnerability.
Beyond economic barriers, being part of a minority group can also create challenges. For example, financial issues are of significance to American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) Elders.
In 2013, AI/ANs had the highest poverty rate of any group, 29.2% as opposed to the nation as a whole, at 15.9%. Projected poverty rates for AI/AN elders in 2030 are 10.9%, more than twice the rest of the total population, which is projected to be 4.7%. Furthermore, a research study stated that “The elderly AI/AN group consistently fares worse than the total population in the health and economic characteristics examined,” which included “health status, work limitation status, disability status, lifetime earnings, per capita Social Security benefits, per capita income, per capita wealth, and poverty.”
On top these challenges, Elder financial abuse and exploitation is a growing problem, particularly for racial, ethnic minority, and LGBT Elders. Worries about economic stability increase significantly when an Elder is a victim of financial exploitation.
Financial exploitation is defined as the illegal taking, misuse, or concealment of funds, property or assets of a senior for someone else’s benefit. “Senior financial abuse scams are a multi-billion dollar ‘industry’…[and] studies estimate the annual financial loss nationwide to be around $2.9 billion…[but] these figures do not account for the tens of billions spent on indirect costs for medical care, social services, and legal costs, or for the pain and suffering of the victims.”
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.