Last Updated: June 29, 2018
It’s no secret. Retirement is expensive. While many plan well, some seniors can, unfortunately, run out of money and become a financial burden to their families in their retirement years.
You don’t want to sacrifice your own finances to pay for your parents’ assisted living, because you need to think about your own future. What should you do? You have options – you just have to do your research. Read more about what to do when you want to retire but a parent needs assisted living.
Common Sources of Retirement Income
Most seniors receive income from a variety of places, according to a Gallup survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults, including 636 retirees. Retirement these days is expensive, so families need to pull together many different sources to live comfortably.
Here are some common resources to explore to pay for your parents’ senior care:
1. Home Equity
Use your parents’ home to help pay for their care, if needed. If it’s a bad time to sell the home, a second mortgage or reverse mortgage may also be an option.
Find out whether your parents had individual stocks or stock mutual funds to help pay for their retirement.
3. Long-Term Care Insurance
Some Americans qualify for long-term care insurance for elderly care, and some don’t. You’ll have to research whether your parents are eligible.
More than a third of retirees enjoy a steady stream of pension payments in retirement. Do your research to find out whether Dad or Mom had a pension.
5. Retirement or Savings Accounts
Many people have a 401(k), IRA, savings account or similar type of retirement account to help fund their golden years. Check with your parents or their financial advisor to find out whether there’s any money remaining in these accounts.
6. Social Security
Social Security is the most common way Americans pay for retirement and 61% of retirees say it is a major source of their annual income, says U.S. News and World Report. Find out if your parents’ get social security and how much can help contribute to their senior living care.
Have You Exhausted Your Parents’ Resources?
Medicaid is the foremost government assistance program paying for long-term care for people who can’t afford it on their own. It is administered cooperatively by the federal government and states. While the majority of its funding comes from the federal government, each state has some discretion in its individual rules, regulations and eligibility requirements.
Eligibility for Medicaid
There are a number of qualifiers to be eligible for Medicaid:
- A senior has to put almost all of his or her existing assets towards care
- Low-income seniors need to have care or medical expenses that are higher than income
- If a married couple wants to qualify for Medicaid, the couple does not need to have exhausted all financial resources
- The healthy spouse can usually keep the home he or she lives in, but may still have to make significant sacrifices
Medicaid is the safety net for Americans who need care that they cannot afford privately. Like Medicare, Medicaid acts as health insurance. But unlike Medicare, Medicaid can be used to pay for long-term nursing home care in all states.
Many states also allow their residents to use Medicaid to pay for assisted living communities or other alternatives to nursing homes such as in-home care.
Some states even offer a program through Medicaid called PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly), which covers all of the senior’s care and medical needs through one contracting agency, with the goal of allowing people who have traditionally gone to nursing homes to stay in the community (at home) with support.
Plan Ahead: Approaching the Topic of Senior Care
Andy Smith, A Place for Mom’s Financial Expert and Senior VP of Financial Planning at Financial Engines, provides financial planning to families on a daily basis and was kind enough to offer his expert guidance on ways to plan for parents’ senior care early.
Here are the steps he advises taking to discuss senior care finances with your parents:
1. Catalog and organize as much as you can. This will mean accounts, bills, budgets, debts and mortgages, etc.
2. Find out their accountants, advisors, attorneys, etc. Call each of them, introduce yourself and ask for a meeting; let them know what is happening and what your initial plans are, then ask for their help in terms of creating their sets of plans and instructions for what they believe your parents, and you, need to do to plan for the future.
- If you don’t understand what their advisors are telling you, or if you get the sense that they’re taking you (and your parents) for a ride, fire them and hire someone you can trust
- Make sure you (and your parents) are working with fiduciaries: someone who is legally obligated to do what is in your best interests — not theirs
3. Get sign-off from your parents early in the process. If they want you to help them, but they don’t give you the authority to do certain things (especially with powers of attorney and financial decision-making, in some situations), you’re always going to be playing “Mother, May I?” and you’ll never accomplish anything.
4. If your parents are in a place where they can still understand what you’re doing for them with these financial matters, have regular conversations with them. Let them know what you’ve done, what you’re doing and what you plan on doing in each of their major financial areas: expenses, income, investments, outflows
5. Regularly revisit the plans and determine what (if anything) needs to be changed, taking into consideration any of the following:
- Changing family situations (you having to deal with engaging or disengaging siblings, family, etc.)
- Changing finances (good or bad)
- Changing health
- Changing markets
6. Remember that a lot of other Americans are going through the same thing. You’re not alone in this, so reach out for help and talk with people about what you’re feeling, what you’re trying to do, and how to deal with the situation.
7. Set short-term, intermediate-term and long-term goals for yourself with managing your parents’ finances. If you, personally, can’t see regular wins, you’re going to become frustrated and you’ll lose steam (and eventually, quit)
8. Talk about senior care finances early and openly. You think you’re going to offend someone by saying the wrong thing, but not saying anything is more problematic than making someone feel bad short-term, and having to deal with financial problems later.
Have you had to be creative to pay for your parents’ senior care? Share your stories with us in the comments below.
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