Relationships and Finances: Financially Caring for Aging Parents

My mom's young and vibrant. She can hike the Mississippi River bluffs and trails with ease, chase after grandkids with glee and run a 5K with energy to spare. But she has a secret: she's not getting any younger. There will be a day when I must turn the tables and care for her.

This is never more apparent than now, while my grandmother is recovering from back surgery. Grandma has always been active, young and fun, but this year has seen her age a bit, a weariness setting about her eyes, a falter in her step. I now see my mother caring form my grandmother, the simple reversal heartbreaking and beautiful all at once.

It's a painful reminder that my time to become caretaker is just around the corner. Okay, maybe it's 20 years out, but it still seems to be approaching rather quickly. Too quickly. And frankly, it scares me to death.

How will I manage to care for my mother as I'm sending my kids to college? How will I afford it? I'm sure many people are in my situation, unsure of how to financially care for aging parents, especially if they are not sure their parents prepared for their own financial finish to life. So let's take a look.

Get it Out Now

If now is the time you are worrying over your parent's finances, now is the time to address it. No matter if your parents are vibrant and young, there's no time like the present to discuss their retirement savings. Especially if they've taken a blow in the market.

Hopefully, sharing your concerns over their retirement finances can open the doors to a real discussion: If you are expected to shoulder the burden of their lost savings, you should know now; if they simply have not saved enough, you should be prepared; and if they are set in their retirement, it is best to know, to stop the worry.

Tackle the Changes

Once you know what you and your parents face in their retirement savings, you can both make a plan of action. Maybe your parents can work a little longer than planned, and maybe you and your siblings can set aside money every month to help round out your parent's retirement needs.

This give and take can be smoother than expected. For example, I know of a family in which the elderly parents were shy of retiring when they needed to. They couldn't afford it on their own, but they had eight well-to-do children who decided to chip in $800 per month total (this was divided by income/status; the college students contributed less, the doctors and lawyers contributed more). Finally, the parents could retire in peace, and the children were happy to give the ultimate gift.

As with most things, communication is the key to freedom. In this case, the freedom is being free from worry over your parent's financial status for retirement. Talking to them about how they fared the stock market crash can help you both stay on track or get on track to enjoying their wonderful retirement.

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Alex | Perfecting Dad wrote:

Wed, 10/19/2011 - 15:39 Comment #: 1

This is a timely piece. I have been thinking about this for awhile as I get into that middle age and realize that my parents won't be working forever and they might eventually be disabled. I like to think I will be easily able to handle it. My plan right now is to allow my mom or dad to move in with us as a worst case.

I met someone on the bus (I take public transit) and he was one child of three, taking care of his Alzheimers afflicted mother. I found that to be very sad because he was the least able financially, he is a poet so not making tons of money, but his brother and sister just let him handle everything.

For now the parents are still healthy and mobile, which I hope lasts a long time.

Christa Palm's picture

Christa Palm wrote:

Wed, 10/19/2011 - 19:37 Comment #: 2

Alex, I hope your parents stay in tip-top shape for quite a while. It's so sad to hear the poet's situation. You'd think his siblings would at least pitch in some much-needed cash. I wish the best for him (and for you, of course!).

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Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter wrote:

Wed, 10/19/2011 - 21:21 Comment #: 3

My parents are still quite young but I know that when the time comes we are prepared to do what we need to with both sets of parents. We are lucky that both of our parents have managed their finances well so there will be that resource to fall back on when we need.

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Kris @ Everyday Tiups wrote:

Wed, 10/19/2011 - 23:24 Comment #: 4

I have cared for both aging parents and grandparents, and it is exhausting. Sometimes I had to care for both at the same time while I had 3 kids under the age of 4. My brothers moved away so responsibility all landed on me, and it was super hard. Thankfully my husband was helpful at least.

I tried to have talks with my parents about retirement and such, but their circumstances were forced upon them by my dad's increasingly bad health. However, even when they were healthy, they never wanted to plan for the future, they just took things as they came.

I have learned so much about what not to do from dealing with all these issues. I will not only be an open book about finances, but all other wishes will be well known also when I am perfectly healthy so there are no questions or issues (hopefully).

Anonymous's picture

MoneyCone wrote:

Thu, 10/20/2011 - 13:32 Comment #: 5

Always a good idea to sit down with your parents and discuss their financial situation. Appearances can be very deceptive.

Christa Palm's picture

Christa Palm wrote:

Thu, 10/20/2011 - 19:02 Comment #: 6

Miss T, I'm glad to hear your parents have fared well. My mom was hit a little in the market crash, but I am now sure she is on the right track to financial recovery before retirement.

Kris, sorry to hear your tale. It's rough when parents don't plan ahead, and it's really rough when all of the care lands to you. It's good to hear you've learned from their mistakes, and I wish you well in their care.

MoneyCone, very true about appearances being deceiving. In my example of the family with 8 kids, the parents seemed to be doing fine until they came clean about their lack of retirement savings.

Anonymous's picture

retirebyforty wrote:

Sat, 10/22/2011 - 04:47 Comment #: 7

I'm from an Asian culture and we will take care of our parents when they get older no matter what. My parents doesn't have a lot of saving because they always put the kids first and paid for college and other big items. They'll move in with one of us and the 3 kids will pool in to pay for anything they need.

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Baby Expense #3 – $440 Baby Gate & Weekend Roundup wrote:

Sat, 10/22/2011 - 18:28 Comment #: 8

[...] Vesting – Relationships and Finances: Financially Caring for Aging Parents. This is tough because many people didn’t save enough for retirement and will need financial [...]

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Christa Palm wrote:

Tue, 10/25/2011 - 18:54 Comment #: 9

RetireByForty, it's so interesting to read about other cultures. It's great to have a plan in place, and it sounds like you and your siblings are set in your parents' future care.

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Baby Expense #3 – $440 Baby Gate & Weekend Roundup | wrote:

Thu, 10/27/2011 - 17:35 Comment #: 10

[...] Vesting – Relationships and Finances: Financially Caring for Aging Parents. This is tough because many people didn’t save enough for retirement and will need financial [...]

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Finances and Relationships - Taking on Tough Topics | MomVes wrote:

Sat, 01/21/2012 - 18:00 Comment #: 11

[...] of people consider the possibility of caring for a parent physically, but what about helping our parents with finances? Might be time to have the tough [...]

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