She was crying and there was nothing I could do. I would soon learn she was one of the many women caring for aging parents.
A few months ago, I met a woman who was referred to me by another professional.
She was in her late 60s, divorced and working full-time.
After about 10 minutes of friendly small talk, she sheepishly shared her story with me.
She had been caring for her Mom for the last 15 years, and it had taken its toll on her. Emotionally. Physically. Financially.
Her Mom was in assisted living and the family finances couldn’t keep pace with her cost of care.
Her Dad had passed away several years ago and had done a lot to provide for his wife in his absence. All told, he’d left approximately $1.5 million behind in investments, savings and real estate.
15 years later, and it’s all gone.
But not only had her Dad’s assets been consumed with the costs of caring for her Mom, she – the daughter – was now spending a lot of her income to support her Mom.
This is when she began crying.
She’d already cleaned out her retirement accounts and savings, and was now faced with the possibility of selling her home to create additional liquidity to help with her Mom’s care.
I was reminded of this woman and her story when a client recently shared an article with me. Thanks again, Mike.
The article lays out the challenge many women face – or will face – as they shoulder the burden of caring for aging parents.
For instance, in Brian O’Connell’s article on TheStreet.com titled “Women Face Outsized Financial Risks Taking Care Of An Elderly Relative,” we learn about Christine Redlin, an author and producer based in Beverly Hills.
Christine has been the primary caregiver for her 91-year old Mom for several years and says, “I had to downsize my life, in general. Caring for an older relative can really take away from your income.”
The article goes on to say that an estimated 66% of caregivers are female which reinforces the need for women to consider this in their planning.
I’ve touched on this important topic before as being one of the 3 major retirement threats facing women.
In the situation with the woman I met with, I told her that as much as she cared for her Mom, she needed to make sure she didn’t neglect her own welfare, both now and in the future.
Unfortunately, she doesn’t have a lot of choices or flexibility in her present situation.
Don’t let yourself wind up in this woman’s shoes.
There are financial preparations that might include long-term care insurance for your parents or yourself.
You should also make sure you have a sufficient level of comfort and confidence in your own financial plan so you’ll be better prepared to adjust for these types of needs as they arise.
There are also professional resources that may prove helpful as you learn about and explore options for senior care. A couple of professionals that I know and have worked with include Lisa Kaufman and Laura Jalbert.
But even if you’re well prepared for a care giving situation with your parents or other family or friends, I’d like to remind you of an important concepts:
As much as you want to help your parents or anyone else that is important to you, if you’re jeopardizing your financial future in the care of someone else, you risk creating a destructive financial cycle.
One where you’re caring for your parents and it’s potentially sucking up all your financial savings and security.
And who’s going to look after you as you age?
Most likely your children. And this can happen for generation after generation.
Instead, talk to your parents about their expectations and establish some boundaries. As much as you want to help, you need to know at what point your personal financial contributions will put your personal financial plan at critical risk.
As much as I hate to be the one to say this, if your parents didn’t adequately prepare for their future, it’s not your responsibility to cover any gaps or shortfalls.
Nevertheless, many women not only want to provide help and support to their Mom and Dad as they get older, they feel like it is their duty and that it takes priority over their own well being.
Just be careful as this attitude can be devastating to your own financial future.
And that of your children.
It’s not a simple topic but it’s important and I think it needs to be discussed more openly within families.
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