Saturday, July 29, 2006

Uh-oh

Randy Cassingham has a free weekly e-newsletter that JLM and I both enjoy. The program has several hundred thousand readers for it's free version, and there's also an ad-free premium version for a small fee.

Cassingham has some satellite interests as well, including a web site for airing customer service war stories. He publicized it in this week's newsletter. This week banks are in the cross hairs, and there are indeed some nasty anecdotes. Here's the link: Cranky Customer: At My Bank, NSF = Non-Sufficient Friendliness

Be sure to click through for the comments, there are some tough stories there for bank marketers to overcome. An excerpt I appreciated:

I took all of our spare change, went to the trouble of counting it and putting it in sleeves (my grandfather used to work at a bank, so I knew this would be expected), took to the bank, and was told there would be something like a 20% charge to accept it. I wonder if you bring in large amounts of cash money if they tell you the same thing... I told them that was ridiculous, and took my change and left. We ended up using the sleeved change at the post office and fast food drive thrus. We were running several errands the day we tried to deposit the change at the bank, and the next stop was at the post office next door. Before offering it as payment, we asked the clerk "is it ok if we pay in wrapped change?" and he said "It's money isn't it?"

Yeah, that's what I thought before I went to the bank.


Perhaps the customer should have gone to Saturday Night Live's First National Change Bank?

ETETRA 2006

As JLM predicted in an earlier post, the House has stapled estate tax reform to an increase in the minimum wage, an item for which some Senators have been clamoring. Here's a link to the Ways and Means press release.

Key elements of this version of estate tax reform:

• Reunify the estate, gift and GST taxes.
• The $5 million exemption is delayed until 2015.
• Inflation indexed after that.
• In 2015 the top tax rate will be 30%; the starting tax rate is linked to the rate on long-term capital gains.
• Portable spousal estate and gift tax exclusions are included, casting a minor shadow over the need for bypass trusts.

But I was right also, in my earlier post, because the extenders bill that was removed from the pension legislation has also been thrown into this pot. So the Senate Democrats will be put to a pretty severe test in holding the filibuster for this one.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Careful, That Trust Might be Patented!

"It's tough enough to figure out whether a complex tax strategy is right for you" writes Tom Herman in The Wall Street Journal, "let alone legal. Now there's something else to worry about: Getting sued by someone who has patented the technique."
It may sound surprising that tax and financial-planning ideas can be patented at all. They can, just like gadgets and other inventions. While the number of tax-related patents is still small, it appears to be growing -- and is attracting attention in Congress, at the Internal Revenue Service and among tax professionals facing increasingly intense competition for wealthy clients.
* * *
Tax lawyers have been focusing more closely on the subject since a lawsuit was filed early this year against John Rowe, now executive chairman of Aetna Inc., in federal district court in Connecticut. According to the complaint, Dr. Rowe used an idea invented and patented by Robert C. Slane, who assigned the patent to Wealth Transfer Group LLC, of which he is a member.

The patent -- No. 6,567,790 -- involves transferring stock options to a "grantor-retained annuity trust." Typically, the goal of these trusts is to transfer appreciated assets to family members while minimizing gift and estate taxes. The complaint says Dr. Rowe had set up "one or more" of these trusts funded by nonqualified stock options in Aetna. The lawsuit asks for a permanent injunction barring Dr. Rowe from "infringing," or inducing others to infringe, on the patent. It also asks for damages and attorneys' fees, but doesn't specify how much.
For more on GRATs, including SOGRATs, and an interview with Robert C. Slane himself, see this Estate Analyst article.

Brush Up on Shakespeare . . . and See His Last Will!

Passing through New England this summer? Be sure to stop in New Haven, where the Yale Center for British Art presents "Searching for Shakespeare." The exhibit includes Shakespeare's last will, making its first appearance outside the U.K.

Never visited the Yale Center for British Art? You're missing one of this country's architectural masterpieces, conceived by philanthropist Paul Mellon and designed by Louis Kahn.

Paul Mellon's mother was English; he grew up liking England much better than Pittsburgh. This concrete-and-oak jewel of a museum is the result, one of Mellon's many gifts to the American people.

The Yale Alumni Magazine article on Shakespeare's will, mentioned in an earlier post, is now online.

Worried about a new son-in-law, Shakespeare leaves half his daughter Judith's inheritance in what sounds a lot like a trust, naming his two executors as "overseers."
Shakespeare specifies that Judith won't start to collect the interest until three years after the date of the will. Moreover, the money will be controlled "by my executors and overseers for the best benefit of her and her issue."
The will was written by Shakespeare's lawyer and signed by Shakespeare on all three pages. The final signature, "by me William Shakespeare" is shown here. "Samuel Schoenbaum, author of probably the best documentary biography of Shakespeare, believes he had barely strength enough to write the last 'Shakespeare.'"

The Yale Alumni Magazine didn't put online the graphics that accompany the article. Here's a scan of the first page of Shakespeare's will. Click on the image to see a larger version.


Thursday, July 27, 2006

Brooke Astor at 104: Does Wealth Invite Elder Abuse?

The New York Daily News broke the story yesterday, and papers here and abroad have been all over it today.

Brooke Astor, long-time socialite and philanthropist, is age 104. Her care and financial affairs had been turned over to a guardian, her only child, Anthony Marshall. He's her son by the first of her three marriages.

According to legal proceedings launched by Anthony Marshall's son Philip, that was a big mistake. Philip charges that his 82-year-old father has kept Mrs. Astor in her run-down NYC apartment without proper care, especially considering the standard of living that a reported net worth of $45 million should afford.

Pending a court hearing next month, a family friend and a corporate trustee, JPMorgan Chase, have been named to take over responsibility for Mrs. Astor's well-being.

Today's New York Times cites estimates that perhaps one out of every twenty old people suffer abuse or neglect.
“The greatest perpetrators of elder abuse are family members,” said Bob Blancato, national coordinator of the Elder Justice Coalition. “The rich and powerful are as helpless and vulnerable as anyone else.”

Professor Richard J. Bonnie [of the University of Virginia] described abuse of the elderly as “a kind of hidden problem, in all the settings in which it occurs, maybe even more so than child abuse is.”

He pointed out that institutional care had come under greater scrutiny in recent years, but that mistreatment of the elderly in the home presented a problem since it was not within regulatory oversight. Even well-intentioned relatives may be preoccupied with other burdens or not skilled in recognizing problems, he said. “And nobody’s looking over their shoulders.”

Financial exploitation, he said, “is most likely to occur when you have a sizable estate when the temptation for self-dealing may be greater because they’re concerned that the assets are going to be lost and not inherited.”

Another expert, Dr. Gregory J. Paveza of the University of South Florida, said that often when family members have been selected as legal guardians, “the court’s oversight is cursory at best.” The guardian, he said, “has absolute control over your life.”
You hear a lot about "The Sandwich Generation," Boomers with both kids to raise and elderly parents to worry about. As the Brooke Astor story shows, the sandwich is increasingly likely to be a double-decker.

Just yesterday, the Portsmouth, New Hampshire Herald published this story:
When Elaine Peverly, 82, walked into the Pines at Edgewood Center last October asking questions about whether the assisted-living home was a good fit for her mother, office manager Glenda Stewart thought she was crazy.

"I went over (to co-workers) and said, You guys won't believe it; a woman in her 80s thinks her mother is still alive," said Stewart. "Then, sure enough, in comes Mildred."
Mildred celebrated her 104th birthday this week. And, yes, "She's still touching her toes at age 104."

Another PETRA update

Tax Notes Today ($) reports that estate tax reform has been removed from the pension legislation, and so has the "extenders bill" that was severed from the May legislation that added two years to the low rates for dividends and long-term gains. The two items from the extenders bill that always get mentioned are the deduction for sales tax (instead of state income tax), and the r&d credit. These, and a few other business items, are thought to be "must haves."

So the current thinking is that the relatively uncontroversial extenders bill will be paired with the estate tax reform, and maybe that will be enough for 60 senators.

House Speaker Hastert announced that the House will vote this week on a new bill that combines the extenders and the estate tax reform into a single package. According to the report, this time the link to the capital gains tax rate will be broken, and the top tax rate will be set at 30%.

The big problem with estate tax reform is that, though Congressmen say they only want to tax those with more than $10 million, those people don't pay most of the estate tax. The reform proposal "costs" 70% or more of what complete repeal costs. Once you remove that much revenue, the rationale for the expense of an estate-tax collections infrastructure becomes tricky.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Giant Wealth Transfer Predicted

The Washington Post previews a study commissioned by Chevy Chase Trust: Wealth transfers in the Washington, D. C. area are expected to total $2.4 trillion from 2005 to 2055.

The study, by Boston College's Center on Wealth and Philanthropy, follows an earlier guesstimate of $41 trillion for wealth transfers nationally over the same period.

Meaningful estimates? Probably not, according to the AARP. (If you believe in long-range projections, take a look at forecasts for federal income and outgo made ten years ago.)

For sure, we can't guess how much of that $2.4 trillion would end up in the hands of heirs. Unknowns include Boomer longevity and spending habits, not to mention inevitable changes in the taxation of estates and capital gains.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Superman Returned. Can Tax Reform?

Two decades have passed since the Tax Feform Act of 1986, a noble but doomed effort to create a fairer, simpler income tax.

Ideally, TRA 86 would have featured a flat tax, but even tax reform's most idealistic supporter, Bill Bradley, the ex-basketballer turned Senator, knew that idea wouldn't fly.

So TRA 86 had two rates, 15% and 28%. But even though the Act limited or voided a number of tax breaks, it was deemed to raise not quite enough revenue. Then somebody had a really awesome idea:

“Let's phase out the 15% rate for upper-income taxpayers. Make ’em pay a flat 28%. We'll make the phase-out gradual, so they'll never notice.”

And so it was that TRA was doomed to death by ridicule. For the practical effect of the gradual phase out was to cause a taxpayer's marginal tax rate to rise from 15% to 28% to 33% (because of the phaseout) as income increased. Then the top rate dropped back to 28% for top-bracket taxpayers.

TRA 86 wouldn't have lasted long anyway, but the lower marginal rate for the richest Americans sure didn't help.

Some provisions of TRA 86 live on. The Alternative Minimum Tax, for instance. But even the AMT was a lot neater and simpler when it was born.

Now, Jeffrey Birnbaum reports in The Washington Post, Senator Ron Wyden is eager to launch a new round of tax reform, with the backing of Senator Grassley, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

Tax code changes are always good news for tax lawyers, accountants and investment advisers. Will Tax Reform, the Sequel ever see the light of day? We'll have to wait and see.

Click here for an earlier Jeffrey Birnbaum column on the decline and fall of TRA 86.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Are Estate-Tax Audits Being “PETRAfied”?

From an item in today's New York Times:

“The federal government is moving to eliminate the jobs of nearly half of the lawyers at the Internal Revenue Service who audit tax returns of some of the wealthiest Americans, specifically those who are subject to gift and estate taxes when they transfer parts of their fortunes to their children and others.

“The administration plans to cut the jobs of 157 of the agency’s 345 estate tax lawyers, plus 17 support personnel, in less than 70 days.”

Although the auditors are becoming unemployed (Civil Service rules won't let them switch to income-tax audits), deputy IRS Commissioner Kevin Smith sends them off with a kind word:

“Estate tax lawyers are the most productive tax law enforcement personnel at the I.R.S., according to Mr. Brown. For each hour they work, they find an average of $2,200 of taxes that people owe the government.”

Oh, well. Even with PETRA, the estate tax won't vanish entirely, though enforcement obviously will be scanty. So the words of the IRS theme song could continue to ring true:
If he hollers, Tax him more;
Tax him till he's good and sore.
Tax his coffin, Tax his grave,

Tax the sod in which he's laid.
Put these words upon his tomb,
"Taxes drove him to his doom."
After he's gone, we won't relax.
We'll still collect inheritance tax.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Will estate tax reform be grafted to pension reform?

According to Tax Notes Today ($) there may be an attempt to marry estate tax reform to the long-delayed pension reform legislation:
Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has said that Senate leaders have been pressuring him to include permanent estate tax reform in the conference agreement.

Democrats are not likely to be happy about that. On the other hand, characterizing the estate tax reform as "controversial" (Minority Leader Reid's word) is disingenuous. Estate tax repeal might be controversial, but reform hardly is.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Adrift in the becalmed sargasso of marketing-speak

If you would enjoy an excellent and free lesson in new media marketing, keep reading.

I am a former science fiction afficionado. I say "former" because for many years I didn't find anything new that seemed worth my time. Recently I gave the books of John Scalzi a try, based upon the endorsement of the Instapundit, Glenn Reynolds. It ain't Robert Heinlein or Isaac Asimov (notwithstanding the blurbs on the books), but I have read every Scalzi tome in our local library now, and enjoyed them thoroughly.

Mr. Scalzi has a blog, and in this recent post--How (And How Not) To Market To Me When I'm in Blogger Mode--he takes apart two recent e-mail offers to help him commercialize his blog (something he has no intention of doing). This is an excellent exercise for you marketers--you can analyze the emails yourself, then compare your conclusions with his (some of which are a tad, um, ribald). The title of this post comes from Scalzi's literate and on-target criticism.

Hat tip: Instapundit

Last laughs?

Following up on our Vickie Victorious report of Anna Nicole Smith's win the in U.S. Supreme Court, now it develops that her step-son nemisis in that suit has died, at age 67, of an aggressive infection. No word yet on what happens to the lawsuits.

"Let's choose executors and talk of wills"

Peter O'Connell has called to my attention a very interesting item about Shakespeare's will, which is on loan to the Yale Center for British Art until September. Unfortunately, the article is only available on dead trees at the moment, having been published in the July/August edition of the Yale Alumni Magazine. They are slow to post their material to their website, as the items now available seem to be from the last issue. An any rate, check this space for updates.

Shakespeare signed each page of the three page will, hand written by his lawyer. The writing on page one is noticeably more cramped than the next two pages. The article speculates that the will was amended, but on page one only, and the lawyer deliberately forced the new version to fit on a single page to avoid the necessity of copying the remaining two pages.

I believe that I've heard before that Shakespeare left his wife his "second best bed," and now I'll have to think of a way to put that idea into an article.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Why “Retired” Boomers Will Need Your Investment Help

The real-estate segment on the Nightly Business Report mentioned below reminds us that baby boomers aren't going to retire if they can help it:

“Since many baby boomers plan to stay on the job beyond the age of 65, more active adult communities are popping up near major business hubs like Chicago.”

As the AARP keeps saying, most boomers don't want to stop working even if they can afford to. That's good news for wealth managers. The old generation of affluent retirees tended to be do-it-yourself investors. That was their retirement hobby.

If HNW boomer retirees keep busy working and traveling, they won't have time for investing.

(Hear a great thumping sound? Must be opportunity knocking!)

Hedge Funds: the Phantom $1 Trillion Resurfaces

On last evening's Nightly Business Report, former SEC Commissioner Laura Unger mentioned that assets held by hedge funds had tripled in two years, now totalling $2.4 trillion.

That's the same figure an SEC spokesman recently disavowed. As we noted in a recent post, the overnight doubling of hedge fund assets, from about $1.2 trillion to $2.4 trillion, seems to have resulted from double or triple counting.

Whether hedge funds hold upwards of $1 trillion or $2 trillion, Unger is among those who hear an ominous ticking sound.

“If the SEC does not find a more credible means to regulate hedge funds,” Unger states, “ one or both of two things will happen. One, it will regulate by enforcement, no doubt vigorously. Two, a crisis will occur and Congress will respond with a whole set of new requirements. Many question the need for regulation. History shows that it takes a crisis to demonstrate that need. I guess that makes it near impossible to regulate ahead of the crisis.”

Monday, July 17, 2006

Phishing with Wachovia

How odd! We closed our account with Wachovia (then First Union ) ten years ago, yet the other day this e-mail arrived:

A click on the link led to this log-in page:


Not a bad imitation, except for the out-of-date logo. Here's Wachovia's real log-in page:


While visiting Wachovia online, we browsed the Wealth Management pages. Bit disconcerting to find life insurance sales mixed in with the fee services, but in general the material is neatly presented.

Check out this Wachovia's market-segments page. It links to messages aimed specifically at business owners, professionals, etc.

The market-segment approach is hard to pull off plausibly. (Does a plumbing-supply magnate's rollover IRA really differ from an oncologist's?) Still, the effort is worthwhile. Makes the reader feel welcome as a potential client. "Gosh, they do work for people like me!"

A living trust gives the Aaron Spelling estate privacy (somewhat)

Aaron Spelling, who died in June, was said to have produced more TV shows than anyone else, from Daniel Boone and Hart to Hart to Charlie's angels, The Love Boat, Dynasty, and Beverly Hills 90210.

Reportedly, he also spent almost $50 million building Hollywood's biggest mansion.

The TM (tabloid media) are all agog over the Spelling estate. Is his daughter going to cause trouble? Is the fabulous mansion being sold too quickly?

"Spelling Will Details Revealed," trumpets a UK source. But the details, it turns out, have been shielded by wise estate planning:
According to Entertainment Tonight, Spelling's estate has been left to a trust, which indicates that details on the exact division of his massive fortune will most likely remain confidential."

Friday, July 14, 2006

Two views of accountants as investment advisers

Judging by a survey cited in our recent post, men and women with $500,000 or more to invest are three times as likely to use an accountant as primary investment adviser than they are to use a trust officer or private banker.

Brokers still get the biggest share of the advisory business, 31% compared with 9% for accountants and 3% for trust officers and private bankers. Still, the growing role of accountants in asset management is notable.

Coincidentally, the case of one accountant who managed investments on the side was featured on NPR's Morning Edition this week. You can hear the item, one of a series on the scamming of senior citizens, here.

According to the U.S. attorney who handled the case, "Barry Korcan engaged in a decade-long fraud scheme, in which he stole more than $11 million from investors and retirees. He used his position as an accountant to gain his clients' trust and their savings, then destroyed both in order to support his businesses and extravagant lifestyle. His despicable scheme is one of the largest frauds ever perpetrated and prosecuted in Western Pennsylvania."

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Marketing isn't just words, words, words

Even when — no, especially when — marketing intangibles like asset management and trusteeship, good graphics are great attention-getters. There don't seem to be many great visuals used these days, though the Geico gecko is cute.

Here's an example of what a little imagination can do from The New York Times, which is doing its stuffy best to become less gray, more graphic.

The illustration is by Matt Collins. It accompanies an article on why large-capitalization stocks could be a good buy. (One reason: small investors have been dumping large-cap funds for the first time since 1994.)

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

PETRA update

Senate Majority Leader Frist has no timetable for estate tax reform, according to this Tax Notes Today ($)item.
Frist said the legislative approach of the Senate, as well as any timeline for the legislation, will depend on whether supporters of estate tax reform are able to gain more Democratic support. Just four weeks remain before the Senate's August recess, and Frist said discussions will continue during that time.
Initially House Ways and Means Committee Chair Thomas said that the House-passed compromise bill was their "only offer," as he wanted to avoid the delay of a Conference Committee. Reportedly he's backed off of that position now, so if the Senate takes up the bill it may be opened up for amendments.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Hedge Funds Lose Over $1 Trillion! Investigation Ensues

Relax, the loss was only on paper.

Last winter, hedge funds were said to manage about $1.2 trillion. This summer, that figure reportedly doubled, according to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and other publications.

Holy Cow! From $1.2 trillion to $2.4 trillion in six months! That meant hedge funds must have grown at the rate of over $45 billion a week.

That's average growth of $6.5 billion per day!

Today, estimates of hedge fund assets are back in the $1.2 trillion range. As the Bid and Offers column in The Wall Street Journal explained, the sudden doubling represented the sum total of assets reported by hedge funds registering with the SEC, before an appeals court said they didn't have to.
John Nester, SEC's head of public relations, says the SEC figure is high because it "includes a lot of double counting."

About 2,500 registered investment advisers claim to collectively have $2.4 trillion in more than 13,000 hedge funds. But a lot of that money overlaps, Mr. Nester says. Say a fund that invests in hedge funds has $1 billion. It would report those assets. Then, the hedge funds where that $1 billion is invested would report that money again.
Here's what seems to happen: The manager of Fund A, a long/short equity fund, senses opportunity in commodity derivitives but doesn't know much about them. So he moves some of his clients' money to his commodity-maven friend's Fund B. Wouldn't be surprised to learn that a fund of funds then takes major positions in both Fund A and Fund B.

Care to guess the total management fees and "profit bonuses" paid by the unfortunate affluent soul (or pension fund) who invests in that fund of funds? Neither do I.

Good riddance

Writing in The New York Times recently, Jenny Anderson ($) says the Securities & Exchange Commission should rejoice that it was barred from registering hedge funds.
[A] hedge fund blowup would have resulted in S.E.C. officials' being hauled before Congress and lambasted for failing to protect investors. . . .

Now, when a fund explodes — and a fund will blow up — Christopher Cox, the S.E.C. chairman, can testify on Capitol Hill with the comfort of knowing that the agency simply didn't have the authority.

Imagining what comes next should not be hard for anyone who witnessed the collapse of Enron and its aftermath. Congress will express shock and dismay at the rampant greed and moral vapidity of the hedge fund business, ignoring the fact that many in Congress receive campaign contributions from those very same funds. Rather than blame the S.E.C., lawmakers will aim their fury at the hedge funds, pools of money run by rich people for rich people.

Congress will leap into action and produce Sarbanes-Oxley, Part II: The Blame Hedge Funds Bills.
Hedge funds may be primed to explode, but so far this year's returns don't seem to justify the risk. According to Merrill Lynch calculations, the average hedge fund returned less than the DJIA for the first six months of the year. The average long-short equity hedge fund was under water. No Alpha, no nothing.

Is PETRA dead? part two

Tax Analysts ($) is reporting that the latest version estate tax reduction might get a Senate vote soon.
Although the Senate has repeatedly delayed consideration of legislation to repeal or reform the estate tax, a House-passed bill designed to win Democratic support for estate tax reform could be one of the first items on the Senate schedule this month. Senate Majority Leader William H. Frist, R-Tenn., has not announced when his chamber will take up the legislation, but he vowed the week of June 26 that the Senate would eventually vote on "a permanent reduction" to the estate tax.

However, the special deduction for timber, added to pull some Democratic Senators on board, has apparently failed to do the trick.

Brokers and the affluent

This headline is rather misleading: Full-Service Brokers Losing Hold on Affluent: given the fact that the study being reported suggests an increase in broker's market share (from 2004 to 2005) among those with $500,000 and more to invest. And they are in first position. Still, the article makes clear that brokers' share of this market segment is well below its dominance of a few years ago, and that they suffer some very high negatives.

Sounds like an opportunity for the trust industry to me.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Kenneth Lay's estate: death and transfiguration

Ken Lay may have died a debtor, but apparently he'll be laid to rest as an affluent former CEO.

Bloggers spotted this strange turn of events soon after Lay's death was announced. The Wall Street Journal's Law Blog reported:
Lay’s conviction might be expunged, says criminal law professor Peter Henning in a fascinating post on the White Collar CrimeProf blog. Citing Fifth Circuit law (the federal jurisdiction encompassing Houston), Henning says that when a defendant dies before appellate review of a conviction, the death “abates, ab initio, the entire criminal proceeding.”
Since Mr. Lay, in death, was never convicted of anything, efforts by the Justice Department to get at his remaining wealth, estimated at around $8 million, plus unspecified life insurance proceeds, seem temporarily thwarted, reports the New York Times.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Should affluent oldsters rely on self-employed financial advisers?

"For older Americans, " says the headline for this thought-provoking New York Times article, "money advice is just the start."
Taking care of the finances of older Americans is a huge and potentially lucrative field, and the market is growing. As of July 2004, according to the Census Bureau, 36.3 million Americans were 65 and older. That number is expected to reach 86.7 million by 2050. In a 2004 report, the Investment Company Institute, which represents the mutual fund industry, found that fund shareholders born in 1945 and earlier had mutual fund portfolios worth an average of $247,400.

The wealth of some older Americans, of course, is enormous. Attracted by this market, many financial planners have shifted their focus to it — and bring widely varying attitudes and professional training to the consultation table.
The financial planners described in the article no doubt give good advice to their elderly clients and provide needed help in arranging various elder-care services.

Still, I'm troubled to think of independent financial planners, accustomed to collecting significant fees or commissions, acting as primary advisers to affluent older folks who probably aren't sophisticated.

I'd feel better if these folks were served by the staff of a trust company or bank trust unit. Trust institutions are staffed by people who are 99.98% honest and dedicated. And these people are backed by organizations that supervise them (and that have deep pockets in the extremely rare case a staff member misbehaves).

What's your organization doing to attract the affluent elders who need you?

Are you broadening your services beyond the merely financial?

Are you coordinating your services with other resources for the elderly in your market area?

P. S. Whatever you do, don't start feeling so sorry for elderly clients that you offer to help them cancel their AOL accounts. As another article from today's New York Times recounts, you would be better off opting for life in prison without parole!