As baby boomers are aging, many are coming to terms with the harsh realities of being a caregiver. And a new report from the Bankers Life Center for a Secure Retirement shows that caregiving requires a world of sacrifice.
In a survey of middle-income baby boomers, 46% expect to become caregivers in the future. And 92% of those who expect to be caregivers are willing to make big lifestyle sacrifices to provide care to a loved one. But those sacrifices could take a toll, and in some cases, put boomers' finances at risk.
What does it take to be a caregiver?
Not everyone is cut out to be a caregiver, but among boomers who are willing to sacrifice to step up to that role, here's what they're willing to give up:
- 66% will reduce spending.
- 41% will travel less.
- 27% will move to a new home.
- 27% will cut back on hours at work.
- 19% will stop working altogether.
But while it's one thing to cut back on discretionary spending and travel, it's another thing to reduce one's working hours or stop working completely. Either move could result in some serious financial upheaval.
Another disturbing stat? An estimated 30% of middle-income baby boomers who are already caregivers have taken withdrawals from their retirement savings to pay for healthcare expenses.
All of this data underscores the importance of talking about caregiving as a family in an open, honest setting. It also highlights the need to put measures in place to help pay for caregiving should it become necessary in the future.
The caregiving talk
It's not easy to broach the topic of caregiving as a family, but it's a crucial conversation to have. If you expect to become a caregiver at some point, it helps to set proper expectations from the start. Be honest with yourself and your loved ones as to how far you're willing to go logistically and financially to serve in that role. Maybe you're willing to give up things like leisure, but you're not willing to retire prematurely. These are decisions you need to share so that your loved ones know what to expect.
At the same time, it's a wise idea to look into long-term care insurance -- for yourself as well as for loved ones who might otherwise rely on you to provide full-time care in the future. A long-term care policy could help defray the otherwise astronomical cost of assisted living, nursing home care, or home healthcare. The best time to apply is during your 50s, when you're most likely to snag a long-term health-based discount on your premiums, thereby making your policy more affordable. But if your health is good, you may qualify for a competitive rate in your 60s as well.
An estimated 45% of middle-income baby boomers think they'll need long-term care at some point in their lives. Interestingly, that's up from 36% who felt the same way back in 2013. This indicates that older Americans are becoming more realistic about the likelihood of long-term care, and that's a positive thing.
Caregiving can take an emotional and financial toll, and it shouldn't be a situation you go in unprepared for. Have those talks with your loved ones sooner rather than later -- before the need for caregiving arises.