Why I’m picking a fight with Jane Bryant Quinn


For the most part, I like the woman. I’ve read a number of her books and I’ve read her finance columns in the AARP Bulletin — and learned from them. She seems to be a very smart, very knowledgeable, hard-working, success story. I know nothing scurrilous about her.

However, every once in awhile, I find myself wanting to scream at her.

Jane seems to think POAs are ALWAYS good

Writing for the AARP Bulletin, she recently published a column about giving someone your power of attorney (POA). It’s a nice, long column — longer than this post. But she takes none of that length to mention drawbacks to giving someone a POA. Instead, she assumes giving someone a power of attorney is ALWAYS a good thing.

She admits, about 8/10s of the way through the column that “An estimated 55 percent of elder financial abuse is committed by family members, caregivers and friends, some with POAs.” But that’s the only negative mention of them in the whole column.

And… she follows that up with recommending you not only grant someone a POA, but you also take them to your bank and add them to all your bank accounts. Huh?? Really??

And she concludes with “Please get one!”

Why NOT to give someone your Power of Attorney

Potential for abuse:
How did giving her son her POA work out for socialite Brooke Astor? Reports are she “lived her final years mostly on a urine-soaked couch in her drafty Park Avenue apartment.” Her son used the POA to write himself huge, frequent checks, sell off masterpiece works of art right off the walls, and convince Brooke she was running out of money and therefore had to ask permission to buy anything she wanted. It was only after her death that he (along with Brooke’s estate lawyer who enabled the theft) was finally convicted of stealing from and financially abusing her.

I can’t remember where I read this, but it has always stuck with me. It said there’s a small percentage of people (around 10%) who are crooks at heart. They will actively investigate ways to scam people and they will cheat and lie even when it’s easier not to.

Then there’s a larger group (maybe 20-25%) who will steal only if the opportunity is right in front of them. Especially if that theft opportunity stays right there, in front of them, beckoning. Giving someone — anyone — your POA provides that temptation.

Why you SHOULD give a POA

I must admit to Jane that there are also a couple of very good reasons why you SHOULD give someone a POA:

  1. If you do become mentally incapacitated, and have not given a POA, a court can decide for you who should be in charge of your finances (and thus, really, of yourself). Hopefully, someone you choose would be more attentive to your needs than a stranger.
  2. Having a POA in place can prevent a scam artist such as April Parks from paying off a doctor and a judge to get an “emergency” POA issued. That emergency POA gave her access to (and the ability to steal from) the funds of a large number of seniors.

Another reason Quinn annoys me

Jane also writes columns for AARP that talk about how we should choose an assisted living option before we’re too mentally demented to know we need one. (OK, she doesn’t phrase it quite like that, but that is the gist.)

Bottom line

I guess the bottom line for me is I don’t want to live in the world she describes. A world where we will all get dementia and need someone else to make our decisions for us.

I don’t want to live there, and I refuse to believe I must. Maybe I’m just in denial(!?) But… dementia isn’t the future most of us face. In fact, our chances of getting it — even if we survive into our 90s — is just 25%. And that 25% counts even MILD forms of dementia.

That means more than 75% of us do NOT need a POA. And perhaps, for those who won’t get dementia, there could be more dangers in giving someone a POA than in not doing so.

I want to remain in control of myself — just like my mother did. Mother wouldn’t cede control of ANYTHING to anyone. She didn’t give out a POA. She didn’t even give out a health POA. She did make very sure her health wishes were known by her children. The only (tiny) concession she made was to sign that the hospital could share her health records with me.

What do YOU think?

One of my best friends — an attorney — sides with Jane and thinks we should all give POAs. What do you think?

Which is more dangerous — giving one or not giving one?


Author bio
Jen008_smallMarlene Jensen is a 71-year-old full-time marketing professor. Previously she was a VP at CBS and ABC and spent decades as an entrepreneur and pricing author/consultant. Sadly, none of these prepared her for the onslaught of marketers who now think her daily interests/needs consist solely of hearing aids, wheel chairs, adult diapers, medi-alert buttons, medications, and bath tubs you walk into.

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