How Generational Caregiving Affects Our Finances and Retirement
By Pamela D. Wilson, CSA, MS, BS/BA, CG
When my mother passed away and I started going through medical bills, monthly bills and the bank account I discovered something shocking. My mother never balanced the checkbook. This was a shock to me at the time because I was fanatical about balancing my checkbook to the penny each month. And not only that, I knew down to the penny what the money in my checking account was intended to pay each month.
All those years growing up I thought my parents had it all together and never considered otherwise. My dad was from the Greatest Generation, a WWII veteran who completed high school and joined the Conservations Corps and later the army. My mother, whose mother passed away when she was five, took responsibility for raising her three younger siblings. She went to high school but did not graduate. Four of my siblings included myself went to college, two did not.
It never occurred to me that my parents might benefit from my years of education, even if it was to show my mother how to balance her checkbook. I have no idea how she managed she and my father’s money all those years without actually knowing how much money was in their account. She obviously had it all figured out. My parents were able to set aside money for retirement, although probably not in the best vehicles to obtain a good investment return.
My parents passed away when I was in my mid to late thirties. I see many other children my age, who have parents in similar situations. I am not sure how most parents would react, but I would suspect that if most children went to their parents to talk about balancing checkbooks and investing money for retirement, the conversation might not be met positively.
This includes not only financial information but also planning for later legal needs and healthcare. I always say that caregiving is a family issue. This is because the responsibility for care of parents can and often does fall on their children. Mostly in unpleasant ways especially when there is little or no retirement savings to pay for healthcare needs.
I believe that there is a significant benefit to families discussing care needs and planning together. Sure this opens everyone up to know more about each other’s finances than we might prefer, however it can avoid issues later in life when parents need care.
Parents should start teaching children at very young ages the value of money. Rather than buying children with electronics and other items why not let them learn to save a weekly allowance for these purchases? We must also work to protect our children from having to be shocked that we do not have sufficient savings or insurance to pay for our care when we are older.
It’s never too late or too early to have this conversation with your parents or children. After all, caregiving is both generational and financial.
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