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Investments & Property

You worked hard to provide for yourself. You may have retired, and you may be living on a fixed income. If you feel financial pressure, please remember: the choices you make to protect your investments and property are more important than ever. Living on a fixed income can be difficult; losing your life savings to fraud is much worse.

Investments

Recognize that unscrupulous people target seniors with deceptive investment offers. While it is always good to continue your education about money matters, be somewhat cautious of seminars that come with offers of free lunches, outings, trips or gifts.

These perks may be attractive, but they may also put you on the defensive. You can read in our Consumer Protection section about how some scammers set their victims up by giving them something for nothing.

On a trip or at a closed seminar, you may find that you are subject to high-pressure sales pitches that will be hard to resist. If you attend by yourself, you may find it impossible to consult friends or family members who can help you make the right decisions.

Be especially cautious of anyone who wants to come to your home and look through your financial documents. These documents are highly confidential, and you should be very sure who you are showing them to.

Investment Fraud

Educate yourself about investment fraud. Most importantly, remember that there are no guarantees when you invest money. If someone tells you there will be little or no risk in an investment, and that you will earn high returns, stop right there. There is no such thing as a "low risk, high return" investment.

If you are living on any kind of retirement income, be aware that there are con artists who would like to get their hands on the capital. Be careful of individuals or businesses you don't know personally or by reputation. Finanacial advisors and investment firms should be registered with the State Securities Board.

Property Tax and Appraisals

For many senior homeowners, rising property taxes can be a threat to their financial stability, even though their mortgages may be paid off.

The Texas Tax Code, Section 33.06, allows taxpayers 65 years of age or older to defer their property taxes until their estates are settled after death. You can contact the Comptroller of Public Accounts and your county tax assessor/collector's office for information about property tax deferment and exemptions on homesteads for elderly homeowners.

If you have a complaint against the ethics or professional conduct of a chief appraiser, appraiser or tax assessor-collector, you can file a written complaint with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.

Beware of property tax scams or businesses that try to entice you to pay unnecessary fees for services that government entities provide for free. Be on the lookout if you receive a piece of mail that looks like official correspondence about your property or property taxes. You might even get threatening notices about delinquent property taxes that you don't really owe.

The tax deferment, like a homestead exemption, is available to qualified homeowners free of charge. You don't need to pay anyone to help you get these tax breaks. And if there is any question of your owing delinquent taxes, don't take anyone's word for it other than your local tax assessor/collector. Go directly to your tax office, and also be aware that a wealth of information is available on the Comptroller's website.

Reverse Mortgages

Senior citizens over the age of 62 whose homes carry little or no mortgage debt may receive offers for a specialized loan called a reverse mortgage. Under these arrangements, eligible homeowners are promised an upfront cash payout with no obligation to repay the loan. Generally, seniors who obtain a reverse mortgage can live out the rest of their lives in their own homes — with no monthly mortgage — and have extra money to spend enjoying their retirement years.

Under a typical arrangement, the lender places a lien on the property in exchange for the cash it provides to the borrower. This allows the lender to recoup the loan, fees and interest, by selling the home after it is vacated.

Although seniors are generally not required to repay reverse mortgage loans, they should be aware that once they pass away or need to permanently leave their homes, most or all the property equity is transferred to the lender. This may be a particularly important point for seniors to consider, if they think they might want to use their homes as assets to help pay for assisted living arrangements or may want to will their property to loved ones.

Revised: April 16 2014