No matter where you work or what you do for a living, balancing work and family can be tough. But when the question of money comes into play, both can get even trickier. The fact is, financial advice for working families tends to focus on the cost of raising children, rather than the costs of caring for aging loved ones or family members with disabilities in need of long-term care.
One in eight Americans provides care for a loved one facing illness, aging, or disability. From navigating doctor’s appointments to legal and financial planning, managing prescriptions to administering medical care at home, it’s one of the most important and demanding jobs any of us will ever do. And without good support, information and preparation, it can also be one of the costliest. Family caregivers spend an average of $7,000 of their own money every year on their caregiving responsibilities—that’s roughly the same amount the average American household spends on food. Family caregivers should consider these financial tips to help:
- Create a household budget that includes caregiving costs. This will allow you to focus on eliminating debt and cutting expenses where you are able.
- Try to hold on to your 401k and retirement savings. 30% of family caregivers have dipped into their personal savings, and 16% have reduced contributions to their retirement savings. This undermines your own future financial security.
- Look into whether you can be paid for the care you are providing. Your chances are best if you are caring for someone eligible for Medicaid and living in a state with a Medicaid care program or caring for a U.S. military veteran. Find out what options might be available for you.
- Look for organizations in your community that may provide services for you and your loved one. The Alzheimer’s Association and AARP have created the Community Resource Finder to provide easy access to resources, community programs, and services.
Caregivers also play an important role in securing the financial well-being of their loved ones by protecting care recipients from fraud. Thirty-seven percent of active caregivers say that the person in their care has been exploited or financially abused, nearly double the percentage from just two years ago. Older adults, in particular, are frequent targets of fraudulent and deceptive business practices because of the perception that they’re more likely to trust and act politely toward strangers.
Don’t let a scam artist take advantage of you or your loved one. Take these precautions to protect your loved ones:
- Check credit reports at annualcreditreport.com to ensure that fraudulent new accounts haven’t been opened in your loved ones’ names.
- Don’t give out Social Security numbers, credit card numbers or bank account information to anyone on the phone or Internet unless you have independently verified who is asking for the information and why they need it.
- Add phone numbers to the National Do Not Call Registry.Register numbers by visiting www.donotcall.gov or by calling 888-382-1222 from the number(s) you would like to register. Of course, scammers won’t check the registry, but it will reduce legal telemarketing calls.
- Visit the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) website to reduce commercial mail. You’ll need to create a DMAchoice account (it’s free), and then you can specify what types of mailings you do and do not wish to receive at your house or the home of your loved one.
AARP has free resources for family caregivers, including multiple articles on smart financial planning, detecting and preventing fraud, and managing a loved one’s money. For more information, please visit www.aarp.org/caregiving, or www.aarp.org/fraud.
This article is provided by AARP.