April 12, 2012
Fraud Against Elderly Documented
Chilling. That sums up a documentary about financial fraud against elderly people premiering tomorrow at the Quad Cinema on 13th Street in Manhattan.
“Last Will and Embezzlement” is about fraudsters who seek out vulnerable elderly people suffering from cognitive decline for no other purpose than to exploit their trust and steal their money. It’s not uncommon for these con men and women to be family.
By first-time producers Pamela Glasner and Deborah Louise Robinson, the film would’ve benefitted from more reporting and more focus – they try to do too much when they get into court systems and solutions. But the film does what journalism does best: It finds people willing to tell personal gripping stories – not easy to do – and gives them a voice.
- Mickey Rooney, 91, relived his searing emotional pain on screen, as he recounted how his own nephew “swindled” his money years ago.
- An elderly woman with Alzheimer’s was persuaded by a mortgage broker to take out a complex reverse mortgage, which resulted in foreclosure on her home and a legal battle waged by her children. “My mother was incapable of understanding any of this,” her daughter said. …
March 15, 2012
Fraudsters Hone Art of Disguise
Tried-and-true financial frauds – Ponzi schemes, high-yield investments, and “pump and dump” stock scams – have victimized unsuspecting targets for decades, even centuries.
These well-known frauds are effective, because con men change their disguises so they won’t be recognized. Six common disguises are detailed in a report I wrote for the Financial Security Project at Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research, which hosts this blog.
February 21, 2012
Investment Humor Not an Oxymoron
You have to admire a financial writer and editor with the guts to put this on his LinkedIn profile: “While many Wall Street people go to Harvard or Yale University to learn about business, Ron went to art school.”
The cartoons shown here are in a humorous financial book by Ronald DeLegge 2d, who said he first earned his chops as an insurance salesman at a small Midwestern company that eventually became part of AIG. His cartoons appear in “Gents with no ¢ents: A closer look at Wall Street, its customers, financial regulators, and the media.” Dave Clegg was the illustrator.
February 9, 2012
The Science Fiction of Financial Markets
A lot of us feel when we look at the Dow Jones plunging [that] we’re in the grip of some alien force that slips human control. — Novelist Robert Harris
The stock market in May 2010 seemed to “come alive” when it swooned 1,000 points within minutes, Harris said in a bone-chilling radio interview that’s worth a listen for Main Street investors.
His new thriller, “The Fear Index,” which the London Telegraph called “unputdownable,” is about a hedge fund manager. But in the interview, Harris expressed his desire to take readers beyond the business reporter’s technical explanations for the market’s wild swings up or down. A solitary, $4 billion trade, the media widely reported, caused the 2010 Flash Crash that left an impression on the novelist. As Europe teeters on recession, it’s anyone’s guess how the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock market index has managed to soar more than 7 percent since Jan. 1.
Wall Street experts may be able to make sense of a hair-trigger market, but Harris’s sci-fi explanation is appealing to the rest of us. He invokes the imagination – or, perhaps I should say, the artificial intelligence lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
To hear Harris’ interview on National Public Radio, click here.Learn More
February 2, 2012
Teen Play about Money is “Eye Opening!”
“Money Matters,” a play that opened last weekend in Cambridge, Mass., demonstrated the financial wit of its teenage actors at the same time that they – and the audience – embraced the complexities of money.
Credit versus debt, income differences among classmates, money and relationships, certificates of deposit, needs versus wants – this only scratches the surface of the subject matter in the Youth Underground theater production, which begins touring the Boston area in February.
The actors clearly were having fun, but their performance served as an educational tool that might be replicated. For example, the screenplay was based on the actors and other teenagers’ 80-some interviews of community residents about their financial viewpoints and mishaps. The stories generated ideas for the vignettes that were stitched into a screenplay.
“Very eye-opening!” audience member Cameron Netland, 16, said after the performance.
“I learned the difference between saving and spending and between debit and credit!” said Aaliyah Nathan, 14, who, wearing black suede boots to the performance, admitted a weakness for new shoes. …Learn More
December 20, 2011
Cheatin’ Art Exhibited at Duke
Money and cheating go hand in hand – now add art to the mix.
An art exhibit was inspired in part by the research that found a “robust relationship between creativity and dishonesty” by Francesca Gino at the Harvard Business School and Dan Ariely of Duke University, a behavioral economist who founded Duke’s Center for Advanced Hindsight, the location of the exhibit.
What does the art say to you – about financial planning, the scammers who slink among us, or our money culture? Squared Away picked pieces by two of the exhibit’s 22 artists, who are from North Carolina, Israel and elsewhere. The artists’ explanations are included with their work: …
December 6, 2011
United States of Credit
The holidays have arrived, and our credit cards are getting a workout. Sheldon Garon, author of “Beyond Our Means: Why America Spends While the World Saves” (November 2011), maintains that gift shopping isn’t only about giving – it’s our civic duty, we’re told.
Squared Away interviewed the Princeton University historian about world savings rates and America’s “democratization of credit.”
Q: Americans have tightened their belts. How does our current 4 percent savings rate compare with the rest of the world?
Garon: The Chinese save at extraordinary rates, about 26%. But that’s something that happens with Asian economies just as they’re taking off. The Japanese and Korean economies did that too. The really interesting place is continental Europe. . . . The United States should be going down in its savings rates, because we’re an aging society. But the Europeans should be going down even farther, because they have more rapidly aging societies and very low birth rates. But the German, French, Austrian and Belgian savings rates are around 10 percent – Sweden has gone up to 13%.
Q: How did debt become culturally acceptable here?
Garon: Before the 1920s, it was no honor to be indebted. When installment buying became popular in the 1920s, that was seen as an acceptable form of debt. But we reached a new stage in the early 1990s, when society considered you stupid if you didn’t take on more debt. Why would you save up for something if you could borrow so easily?
What do you think of Garon’s take on U.S. financial culture? Squared Away would like to hear your comments after you read the full interview. …Learn More