Regaining financial control after a scam

A year before retirement, Tess’s superannuation plan was on track, and she was imagining her post-work life. With savings of $34,000 at the bank, she was looking to park it somewhere it could earn better interest while rates were rising.

Considering herself reasonably savvy with money, she began investigating her options.

After hearing about someone who’d made a fortune with cryptocurrency, Tess was intrigued and decided to look into it.

Tess researched crypto-companies and compared what was on offer. When eventually she made her decision, she believed she’d chosen the right investment – how wrong could she be!

Within hours Tess realised she’d been scammed.

Shocked and feeling ill, she reported it to ScamWatch, but over the following days the self-blame settled in.

How could she be so gullible? So naïve?

What was she thinking?! How could she have fallen for such an obvious fraud?

Who knew that financial shame was a thing? But there it was in the form of an empty bank account.

Deeply embarrassed, her financial security shattered, Tess lay awake every night berating herself; through her foolishness she’d lost all her cash savings! She became withdrawn, declined social events and refused to unburden herself, even to close friends.

Finally, in desperation, she decided to speak with a counsellor. Tess discovered organisations like Beyond Blue, ScamWatch and Lifeline offered advice and emotional support. She chose one that felt right for her.

Initially, it was difficult to open up and acknowledge her mistake, but the counsellor explained that part of her recovery was confronting her feelings head-on and realising that victims came from all cultures, backgrounds and levels of education. Feelings of humiliation and shame were normal, although unjustified, as the crooks were highly skilled criminals with access to the latest technology.

Heartened by the counsellor’s words, Tess learned to stop blaming herself and confided in her daughter Louise.

What a relief that was! Louise was gentle and supportive, and introduced Tess to her friend Jarrod, a financial adviser.

Throughout Jarrod’s career, he’d assisted innumerable people who’d fallen victim to scams. Most felt insecure and vulnerable, so his approach was to assist them with practical advice around getting their finances back on track.

He believed that Tess would benefit from a temporary, part-time job. She could rebuild her cash savings, and staying busy would distract her from her worries and help her move on.

When discussing her interests and skills, Tess mentioned she loved animals so Jarrod suggested she consider pet-minding or dog-walking, adding that he could setup the necessary insurance.

Then, Jarrod explained, that while her superannuation was on target, there was a difference between investing for retirement and investing for wealth.

Retirement investing was about saving to fund an income stream that met post-work lifestyle goals. Complying retirement funds offered tax advantages and focused on generating returns.

Conversely, investing for wealth involved accumulating assets beyond what is needed to provide retirement income.

For Tess, financial security was critical, so Jarrod considered her risk tolerance and structured a tax-efficient portfolio of growth assets to support capital appreciation and wealth accumulation.

It also meant that Tess could leave something behind for Louise – a legacy she hadn’t felt was important, until she realised how financially exposed the scam had left her.

Tess’s recovery wasn’t without its challenges. It took time and sacrifice, but along the way she developed a greater sense of independence and resilience.

She delayed retirement by a year, so she could recoup her lost savings and contribute the money from her new side hustle to her wealth portfolio.

In the end, Tess’s Dog Minding and Walking Service continued well after Tess’s retirement, for the sheer enjoyment she derived from hanging out with dogs.