An Age 50+ Horror Movie—With a Twist
By Allen J. Davis, CFP® ChFC
I Care a Lot has been streaming on Netflix for just a few months. Yet the movie has already had an impact on our clients and friends.
By the film’s ending, it’s become a classic battle between the bad guys and the even badder guys. But it begins with a frightening scenario: A 70-year-old, never-married woman named Jennifer—comfortably well off, living on her own, and generally healthy—becomes the victim of a network of predators. A corrupt physician declares her incompetent. A well-meaning judge puts her under the care of a legal guardian. That guardian, named Marla Grayson, is the main character and as chilling a villain as ever walked the halls of a nursing home. (She’s played by Rosamund Pike, who just won a Golden Globe for the role.) Grayson maneuvers the perplexed Jennifer into a locked care facility, where she is tricked into giving up her cell phone—and kept sedated. In short order, her house and its contents are sold and her guardian takes control of her financial assets, purportedly to pay for her care. Jennifer is now a prisoner, and as long as she lives, Grayson will skim a generous share of her resources.
That’s just the first chapter in the story, and this summary gives away nothing about the surprises that follow. But it presents a terrifying picture of what might happen to an older person who falls prey to a trio of criminals. Jennifer appears to have no one—family members, friends, or professional advisors—to advocate for her once the thieves have taken control. She’s powerless, her situation seems hopeless. We watch as she’s transformed into a hunched-over, vacant-eyed shadow of herself.
If you’ve seen the film or decide to watch it (which I recommend, as it’s very entertaining), you can be reassured that the legal and eldercare systems are designed to prevent this kind of exploitation. We’re unlikely to meet up with anyone as sly and exploitative as Marla and her co-conspirators.
But this first part of the story has an important message, nonetheless. Everyone needs a safety net—a trusted and reliable back-up team who will look out for your interests if you become unable to advocate for yourself. Your team might include some combination of family, neighbors, friends, minister or rabbi, and professionals such as your financial planner, accountant, estate lawyer, eldercare manager, doctor. What’s important is that they know your situation and your wishes and have agreed to protect your wellbeing, should you (genuinely) need that. Different team members will have different expertise and/or relationship with you and will have different, designated roles. A team also provides a system of checks and balances. By creating this kind of safety net, you’re protecting yourself, as Jennifer was not.
As professional planners, we avoid using scare tactics to motivate clients to make good plans. It simply doesn’t work. Nevertheless, I Care A Lot is worth watching. Like me, you’ll probably find it scary at first but entertaining overall. After seeing it, you’ll never forget why having a safety net is so important.
Securities and investment advisory services and financial planning services offered through qualified registered representatives of MML Investor Services, LLC, member SIPC, Supervisory office: 300 Whitney Avenue, Suite 600, Holyoke, MA 01040, Tel: 413-539-2000. The Davis Financial Group, LLC is not a subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC.