As your parents age, they will probably need more help from you. But it may be difficult to provide the help they need, especially if they’re experiencing financial trouble.

Money can be a sensitive subject to discuss, but you’ll need to talk to your parents about it in order to get to the root of their problems and come up with a solution. Before you start the conversation, consider the following four scenarios as signs that your parents might be experiencing financial challenges, and how you can make things easier for them.

1. They are dealing with debt

Perhaps your parents have fallen behind on their mortgage or credit card payments. Maybe they’re dealing with the aftermath of a large, unexpected medical bill. Or it could be that years of generously supporting their children and grandchildren have left their finances in shambles.

Whatever the cause, debt among older Americans is a growing trend. In 2010, the average debt for a family in which the head of household was age 75 or older was $30,288. In 2016 (most recent data available), that number grew to $36,757.1

2. They are falling for fraud

According to a report by the Federal Trade Commission, older adults have been targeted or disproportionately affected by fraud. Moreover, older adults have reported much higher dollar losses to certain types of fraud than younger consumers.2

Why do scammers target older individuals? There are many explanations for this trend. Some older individuals lack an awareness about major financial issues. Others may be attractive targets for scammers because they have access to retirement account assets or have built up home equity. Additional factors that increase an older adult’s vulnerability to scams include cognitive decline and isolation from family and friends.

3. They aren’t used to managing finances

The loss of a spouse can create many challenges for the survivor, especially if the deceased spouse was in charge of finances. Many widows or widowers might find themselves keeping track of statements, paying bills, budgeting, and handling other financial matters for the first time, which can be a complicated reality to face.

4. They struggle with change

As financial institutions continue to innovate and increase online and mobile access to customer accounts, it can be difficult for older consumers to keep up. For example, some older adults may struggle with accessing their financial information online. Others might get frustrated or confused when financial institutions implement new policies and procedures, especially if they’ve had an account with an institution for decades.

One report described the most common issues that older consumers identified with bank accounts or services. The top three complaints involved account management (47%), deposits and withdrawals (27%), and problems caused by low funds (12%).3

Ways you can help

Regardless of the reasons why your parents might be having money problems, there are steps you can take to help them.

  • Set up a meeting with a financial professional. Encourage your parents to meet with a professional to evaluate their financial situation.
  • Help them reduce spending. Look for big and small ways that they can scale back on expenses, such as downsizing to a smaller home, cutting cable plans, or canceling unnecessary memberships/subscriptions.
  • Have them tested for dementia. If you’ve noticed behavioral or memory changes in one or both of your parents, share your concerns with a medical professional. Cognitive decline can result in difficulty managing finances.
  • Lend money (using caution). If you decide to help your parents monetarily, consider paying your parents’ expenses directly rather than giving them cash so you can ensure that their bills are paid on time.
  • Help them apply for assistance. The National Council on Aging has a website, BenefitsCheckUp.org, that can help you determine your parents’ eligibility for federal, state, and private benefit programs.

1 Debt of the Elderly and Near Elderly, 1992-2016, Employee Benefit Research Institute, 20182 Protecting Older Consumers: 2017-2018, Federal Trade Commission, 20183 Monthly Complaint Report, Vol. 23, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, May 2017

Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2019

Tax season is a good time to get your financial records in order. And whether you are doing it on your own or hiring a tax preparer to assist you, you’ll want to make sure that you have all of your information organized to make the process of filing your taxes easier.

Sometime in January you should have received your W-2 form from your employer. Your W-2 form lists your gross income, taxable income, and the amount of state and federal taxes withheld from your pay. It also will show any 401(k), health insurance, and flexible spending account contributions you have made.

Around the same time that you got your W-2, you should also have received 1099 forms from financial institutions for any dividend and interest income. And if you have a mortgage, your mortgage servicer sent you a 1098 form, which contains information on interest paid along with other mortgage-related expenses.

In addition to the above-referenced forms, you’ll need to provide your personal information, including your date of birth and Social Security or tax ID number. If you are married and/or have children, you will need their information as well. You should also have documents that list any additional sources of income, such as self-employment, rental, retirement, or unemployment income.

Depending on whether you qualify for any tax deductions or credits, you may also need the following information:

  • Records of cash and noncash charitable donations
  • Amounts paid toward medical, dental, and vision expenses
  • Federal, state, and local taxes paid (including quarterly estimated tax payments)
  • Dependent-care provider information
  • Receipts for education-related expenses

Make sure that you keep all your financial records in a safe and easy-to-find place. Being organized is not just a good idea during tax time, but is also helpful at other times of the year (e.g., when you apply for a loan or financial aid for college).

Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2019

Investors who own shares of common stock have the right to vote in elections on certain corporate matters. Election outcomes can help determine the company’s short- and long-term profitability, and ultimately the stock price.

The spring proxy season (generally April through June) is when many publicly traded corporations hold annual shareholder meetings. A smaller number of companies hold meetings during a “mini” proxy season in the second half of the calendar year. Special meetings may be held when there is an urgent matter for shareholders to consider.

Shareholders may attend meetings and cast their ballots in person, or they can vote by mail, phone, or in some cases over the Internet. In a fairly recent development, companies may hold a virtual meeting, allowing shareholders to ask questions and/or vote their shares online. These trends could make it more convenient for investors to participate in corporate elections and influence the outcomes of their investments.

Shareholder input

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requires publicly traded companies to file proxy statements (which list and describe proposals that will be put to a vote) in advance of shareholder meetings. In the past, proxy statements were mailed with the annual report and the proxy card or voting instruction form to investors who owned shares on the record date. Today, these documents are often delivered electronically, unless paper copies are requested. Investors may be contacted through email and provided with a link to a website where they can find meeting information, proxy statements, and voting instructions.

The specific issues on which shareholders are entitled to vote vary by company. Typically, shareholders elect the board of directors and vote on proposed changes to corporate structure and goals. Many companies ask shareholders to approve executive compensation (say-on-pay) and the selected auditor. Some proposals could affect the price of an investor’s existing shares more directly, such as the terms of a possible merger, acquisition, or stock split.

Proxy power

When a friendly acquisition offer is rejected, the company may take a stake in the target and submit proposals directly to shareholders. The acquirer may nominate new board members or try to replace management in order to facilitate a “hostile takeover.”

Management may adopt a shareholder rights plan, known as a “poison pill,” which is a tactic designed to make the company a less attractive target. If an investor buys a block of shares big enough to trigger a response, existing shareholders are offered additional shares at a discount, diluting the acquiring company’s potential equity.

Institutional investors, such as fund managers and pension plans, often use their large ownership positions to shape corporate policies. However, SEC rules allow any individual investor who has continuously held at least $2,000 worth of company stock for at least one year to submit proposals for a vote.

Special shareholder proposals are commonly used to advance specific environmental, social, and governance policies. In 2018, institutional investors pushed companies to report on the impact of climate change and the diversity of their boards of directors.1 Activist investors may try to shake up company leadership and force decisions they believe will boost the value of their holdings.

A proxy fight occurs when groups of shareholders with opposing goals persuade other shareholders to allow them to vote their shares. Before taking a side, investors may want to carefully evaluate the specific proposals presented for a vote.

The return and principal value of stocks fluctuate with changes in market conditions. Shares, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost.1 Broadridge/PwC 2018 Proxy Season Review

Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2019

Tax filing season is here again. If you haven’t done so already, you’ll want to start pulling things together — that includes getting your hands on a copy of your 2017 tax return and gathering W-2s, 1099s, and deduction records. You’ll need these records whether you’re preparing your own return or paying someone else to prepare your tax return for you.

Don’t procrastinate

The filing deadline for most individuals is Monday, April 15, 2019. Residents of Maine and Massachusetts have until April 17, 2019, to file their 2018 tax return because April 15, 2019, is Patriots’ Day and April 16, 2019, is Emancipation Day.

Filing for an extension

If you don’t think you’re going to be able to file your federal income tax return by the due date, you can file for and obtain an extension using IRS Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. Filing this extension gives you an additional six months (to October 15, 2019) to file your federal income tax return. You can also file for an extension electronically — instructions on how to do so can be found in the Form 4868 instructions.

Filing for an automatic extension does not provide any additional time to pay your tax. When you file for an extension, you have to estimate the amount of tax you will owe and pay this amount by the April filing due date. If you don’t pay the amount you’ve estimated, you may owe interest and penalties. In fact, if the IRS believes that your estimate was not reasonable, it may void your extension.

Special rules apply if you’re living outside the country or serving in the military and on duty outside the United States. In these circumstances you are generally allowed an automatic two-month extension (to June 17, 2019) without filing Form 4868, though interest will be owed on any taxes due that are paid after the April filing due date. If you served in a combat zone or qualified hazardous duty area, you may be eligible for a longer extension of time to file.

What if you owe?

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is not filing your return because you owe money. If your return shows a balance due, file and pay the amount due in full by the due date if possible. If there’s no way that you can pay what you owe, file the return and pay as much as you can afford. You’ll owe interest and possibly penalties on the unpaid tax, but you’ll limit the penalties assessed by filing your return on time, and you may be able to work with the IRS to pay the remaining balance (options can include paying the unpaid balance in installments).

Expecting a refund?

The IRS is stepping up efforts to combat identity theft and tax refund fraud. New, more aggressive filters that are intended to curtail fraudulent refunds may inadvertently delay some legitimate refund requests. In fact, the IRS is now required to hold refunds on all tax returns claiming the earned income tax credit or the refundable portion of the child tax credit until at least February 15.

Most filers, though, can expect a refund check to be issued within 21 days of the IRS receiving a return. However, delays may be possible due to the government shutdown.

Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2019

Almost 100 million Americans, representing about 44% of U.S. households, owned mutual funds in 2018. Saving for retirement was the primary goal for 73% of investors; other goals included saving for college or a house, building an emergency fund, or providing current income.1

Mutual funds offer a convenient way to participate in a broad range of market activity that would be difficult for most investors to achieve by purchasing individual securities. With almost 8,000 funds available on the U.S. market, you should be able to find appropriate investments to pursue your goals.2 However, it’s important to periodically examine the mix of funds you hold.

If you are approaching retirement or already retired, this may be a good time to assess the risk level and growth potential of your funds, along with any other investments in your portfolio. Keep in mind that even though it is generally wise to reduce risk as you near retirement, you may also need to pursue long-term growth opportunities.

The following overview describes some basic types of funds in rough order of risk, from lowest to highest. Investments seeking to achieve higher returns also carry an increased level of risk.

Money market funds invest in short-term debt investments such as commercial paper and certificates of deposit and are typically used as a cash alternative. Although a money market fund attempts to maintain a stable $1 share price, you can lose money by investing in such a fund. Money market funds are neither insured nor guaranteed by the FDIC or any other government agency.

Municipal bond funds generally offer income that is free of federal income tax and may be free of state income tax if the bonds in the fund were issued from your state. Although interest income from municipal bond funds may be tax exempt, any capital gains are subject to tax. Income for some investors may be subject to state and local taxes and the federal alternative minimum tax.

Income funds concentrate their portfolios on bonds, Treasury securities, and other income-oriented securities, and may also include stocks that have a history of paying high dividends.

Balanced funds, hybrid funds, and growth and income funds seek the middle ground between growth funds and income funds. They include a mix of stocks and bonds and seek to combine moderate growth potential with modest income.

Growth funds invest in the stock of companies with a high potential for appreciation but low emphasis on income. They are more volatile than many types of funds.

Global funds invest in a combination of domestic and foreign securities. International funds invest primarily in foreign stock and bond markets, sometimes in specific regions or countries. There are increased risks associated with international investing, including differences in financial reporting, currency exchange risk, economic and political risk unique to a specific country, and greater share price volatility.

Sector funds invest almost exclusively in a particular industry or sector of the economy. Although they offer greater appreciation potential, the volatility and risk level are also higher because they are less diversified.

Aggressive growth funds aim for maximum growth. They typically distribute little income, have very high growth potential, tend to be more volatile, and are considered to be very high risk.

Bond funds (including funds that contain both stocks and bonds) are subject to the interest rate, inflation, and credit risks associated with the underlying bonds in the fund. As interest rates rise, bond prices typically fall, which can adversely affect a bond fund’s performance. U.S. Treasury securities are guaranteed by the federal government as to the timely payment of principal and interest. Dividends are not guaranteed.

Asset allocation and diversification are methods used to help manage investment risk; they do not guarantee a profit or protect against investment loss. Mutual fund shares, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost.

Mutual funds are sold by prospectus. Please consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses carefully before investing. The prospectus, which contains this and other information about the investment company, can be obtained from your financial professional. Be sure to read the prospectus carefully before deciding whether to invest.

1-2) Investment Company Institute, 2018

Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2019