In financial services, the latest apps for millennials and Gen Z often make industry headlines. But what about older generations in need of services other than BNPL and crypto investments?
One start-up is hoping to tap into this underserved demographic. Carefull is a digital platform built to support the daily finances of older adults, along with the 45 million “financial caregivers” in the US who manage their daily finances.
Financial caregivers coordinate, contribute to and monitor the daily finances of a loved one as part of a complex and underserved financial relationship which can last as long as 20 years, Carefull co-founder Todd Rovak tells FinTech Futures.
“They do so today via ad hoc solutions, poring through bill stacks, spreadsheets, hunting for fraud, sharing passwords with parents and sitting on hold with bank customer service,” Rovak says.
“It takes a tonne of time, emotion and expense.”
This tangled process exists because many financial institutions today simply don’t provide the tools, resources and infrastructure to better protect this life stage. Older adults can feel as though they have to fend for themselves, which can leave people increasingly susceptible to mistakes and vulnerable to fraudsters. More than $50 billion of elder fraud occurs annually in the US.
Regulatory tailwinds are now pushing banks to do more for their older adult customers.
“Michigan, for example, enacted a law in September requiring banks and credit unions to report financial exploitation committed against senior customers,” Rovak says. The law also allows financial institutions to freeze customer transactions under certain circumstances.
While the older generation may be slower to adopt new technology for financial management, the idea that older adults are not tech-savvy is a misnomer, Rovak says.
Both segments, younger and older, have their own challenges — “I personally think that addressing the challenges of Gen Z is simply easier to pitch to a venture capitalist,” Rovak says.
Rovak believes financial institutions, typically banks, have unfortunately treated their aging customers as customer service challenges and instead focused on high-balance, high-value customers to engage over the next 20 years of spend. This group simply needs a different, smarter layer of tech so they can live their lives actively.
Carefull’s technology integrates senior-specific financial monitoring, financial management, identity theft protection, password and document management, communication and unique how-to content.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is the backbone of the platform. After creating an account, Carefull’s technology works to identify and understand typical financial patterns of each individual Carefull user. Interestingly, as well as financial management tools, Carefull can also spot financial symptoms of early brain disease.
“Indicators of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and related dementias often show up in the wallet years before a doctor’s diagnosis,” Rovak says. “Duplicate and missed payments could be critical signals of brain illness.”
He cites research from Johns Hopkins found that shows those with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias showed a pattern of missed bill payments up to six years before a diagnosis of dementia. Consistently missed mortgage payments can lead to an unexpected foreclosure. Conversely, in some cases, those in the early stages of dementia pay their bills multiple times because they don’t remember making the first payment.
Other financial signs and symptoms of brain disease include inability to correctly balance a cheque book, drastic changes in spending habits, duplicate or unusual purchases, unopened mail, excessive charitable contributions, hidden or missing money and increased susceptibility to scams and fraud.
With the global fintech market expected to increase by 20% over the next four years, it’s likely that more financial management tools targeted towards older demographics will become available.
Carefull is now in multiple late-stage partnership discussions with wealth management platforms for financial advisors, who intend to include Carefull as a financial caregiving system within broader financial planning tools.
“Aging is inevitable and managing a parent or other loved one’s finances isn’t a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’,” Rovak says.