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  • Writer's pictureJonathan Kolmetz

How can you determine if your aging parents have enough savings to fund their silver years?

Updated: Dec 20, 2022

The term sandwich generation — first coined by two social workers in the 1980s — may sound light-hearted but the responsibilities of those who are caring for both parents and children can often feel like a vice grip.

According to the Pew Research Center, about half of adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent aged 65 or older and are either raising a young child or financially supporting a grown child. It is probably not a surprise for many women to learn that the primary caregivers in this scenario are predominantly females in their 40s and 50s. And they are stressed.

A survey from the New York Academy of Medicine and the National Association of Social Workers found that only 20 percent of women who had at least one living parent said that they were happy, as compared to 34 percent of the general U.S. population.

It is not that women do not want to help. It is because they feel the weight of the burden disproportionally. Our clients are thinking about their parents well before they are even asked to step in. They are worried about this in addition to working demanding jobs and juggling multiple other responsibilities. In fact, it is because these individuals are so capable that they become the de facto manager of care in addition to the traditional caretaker role.

Estate planning doesn’t mean who gets what

To formulate a plan, you need to know the resources you have to accomplish it. That’s what estate planning is.

The first thing that a primary caregiver needs to do is to establish

the power of attorney and an advanced medical directive. Plus, you should have the needed documents at hand.

The second issue is understanding what insurance policies exist and who the beneficiaries are. This is not part of a Knives Out throwdown but rather to know what’s available to benefit a living parent.

Do they have long-term care or a disability policy? Where do they plan to get help and support? Are they going to come live with you? Or does a retirement or long-term care facility make more sense? Basically, what is the plan?

Having discussions before you are forced to by circumstance is very beneficial. For instance, while your parent might be nowhere close to selling their house, if you know that the home is paid off, that might give you some peace of mind about the income available to them down the road.

If a loved one has a more complex portfolio of investments, you will appreciate the extra time you had to understand those assets and talk to your parents about how they might be used to their best advantage in the future.

It might not be a Hallmark movie, but your parents will surprise you

These conversations with parents and siblings are not all going to take place with soft lighting, warm smiles and Earl Grey tea.

They are very complicated, and they are very emotionally charged because there’s power and money involved. We generally have a lifetime of some degree of trauma related to our brothers, sisters and family around those very things.

There might also be some anger when you’ve taken the time and energy to think about these issues in detail, but your parents haven’t. When you become the default solution at the eleventh hour, it’s hard not to feel resentment – especially when you’ve worked so hard for what you have.

Or maybe the least qualified sibling with the most to gain financially moves in with a parent or parents and the financial picture gets more muddled. That’s a huge stress inducer.

The good news is this: if you have a list and are able to initiate the conversation, your parents are going to be more willing than you think to have a frank talk about their mortality. After all, they’ve been thinking about it on some level too.

Oftentimes it’s the children and not the parents that are the stumbling block. At Oaks Wealth Management, we like to consider ourselves the catalyst for the conversations that need to happen. Helping clients prepare for themselves and their parents is what we do, and it is something that busy working parents tell us they value. The kind of things that keep them up at night are the things we want to solve in the light of day for that invaluable commodity — peace of mind.



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