As a banker, Greg Palmer joins his colleagues in the financial services industry as a staunch advocate of responsible money management.
“We try to encourage spending within peoples’ needs, of having savings available for emergencies,” said Palmer, who is senior vice president of retail banking at Citizens Independent Bank in St. Louis Park.
“We counsel clients about revolving credit card debt that includes high interest rates, and emphasize the importance of a savings program, of paying yourself first,” Palmer said.
An easy way to enhance those savings is by taking advantage of IRA plans available through employers, he said.
Investment programs help people understand how the balance in their retirement account will provide for them, according to Palmer.
The amount of money that people need in order to retire depends on their lifestyle, Palmer said. “It’s different with every person,” he said. “Maintaining a second home is different from downsizing, then selling your home and finding a smaller footprint.”
For some people, approaching retirement doesn’t mean ceasing work, but moving into “passive employment,” Palmer said. “You may not be working a 40-hour week anymore, but if you enjoy what you’re doing you may be able to combine employment and volunteer work.
People whose only source of income is Social Security often need to defer their decision to retire and continue to work, Palmer said.
“Some people delay retirement well past 62 or 65,” he said. “Some people bought real estate at the wrong time and find that their mortgage is upside down. They may have invested in the wrong things when the market tanked.”
Palmer said he and others at Citizens Bank spend a lot of time visiting residents in senior housing and talking about some of the financial dangers that can plague older people.
“We talk about people who prey on senior citizens through identity theft or financial scams, and we tell seniors how to recognize that,” Palmer said. “We tell them that if a financial opportunity seems to be too good to be true, it probably is.”
Palmer said he and his colleagues see a lot of older clients who have been targeted through the “grandparent calls,” phony check schemes or fake wire transfers.
“When a customer asks to withdraw a large amount of cash or to wire transfer funds, we often see what they might not be aware of,” Palmer said.
The bank presents educational seminars to inform customers of such dangers. “The state Attorney General’s office has fantastic resource information,” Palmer said. “A couple of times a year, we put their information about identity theft, protecting your assets and tips for helping seniors out on a table in the lobby.”
More people are becoming aware of the possible scams and are able to see them for what they are, Palmer said. “But it still happens here a couple of times a year,” he said. “It’s tragic when you see people ready to fall for it, but so rewarding to be able to help them with it. We talk a lot about guarding your privacy and what kind of information not to provide.”
A lot of seniors have fallen for telephone scams and wind up giving confidential information to a person on the other end who they believe is a banker or accountant, Palmer said.
“That’s called phishing,” he said. “People fall for it too often. We assist those clients in closing out their accounts and debit cards. We try to help them understand what information they should provide over the phone or by email.”
When a group of seniors is gathered together for one of the bank’s presentations, Palmer said, they are able to trade stories about strategies they’ve used to successfully ward off such scams.
“The best strategy is one senior sharing with another,” he said.
Palmer, who has been with the bank since 1999, is 2017-18 president of the Twin West Chamber of Commerce board of directors.
MN Attorney General’s Office warns about senior citizen scams
The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office website summarizes senior citizen scams as follows:
You may get a call or email from a con artist posing as a representative of a well-known company. The scam artist typically claims your computer has been infected with a virus or is not working properly. The scam artist then says that he can remove the virus or fix the error for a fee if you allow him to remotely access your computer. The scam artist may use this access to steal personal or financial information on your computer, which can be used to commit the crimes of theft or identity theft.
A con artist may call or email you posing as a relative in distress or someone purporting to represent the relative (such as a lawyer or police officer). The scam artist may frantically begin the phone call with a variation of “Grandpa, it’s me,” followed by a description of his or her purported problem (arrested, in jail, in a car accident, in need of a lawyer,). The scam artist will likely attempt to create a sense of urgency and encourage you not to tell anyone, including the parents of the “grandchild,” about the matter. You will then be instructed to send cash—usually by wire transfer, money order or a reloadable prepaid card.
Lottery scams typically begin with an unexpected email, letter or phone call from a scam artist who claims you have won money in a lottery or sweepstakes. Invariably, the scam artist will ask you to send money to pay purported taxes, insurance or other fees to claim the winnings. Or, the scam artist may ask for your bank account information, supposedly so your winnings can be directly transferred into your bank account. The scam artist uses this information to empty your bank account.
Identity theft occurs when another person uses your personal information to commit fraud. Identity thieves often apply for loans or open credit card accounts in someone else’s name. If your personal information has been disclosed to an unknown party, you may be at risk of identity theft. If an unknown party has your bank or credit card information, you should immediately contact your financial institution.