Over the past 15 years, the percentage of adult children providing personal care and financial assistance to a parent has more than tripled.
A quarter of adult children, mainly baby boomers, are caring for their parents, according to the MetLife study “Care giving Costs to Working Caregivers: Double Jeopardy for Baby Boomers Caring for Their Parents.” The data showed that the 10 million employed caregivers in the U.S. lose an estimated $3 trillion in wages, pensions and Social Security benefits over a lifetime if they leave the workforce prematurely. The average losses are $304,000 per person.
That does not include additional out-of-pocket expenses related to care giving, such as travel costs, contributing to the parents’ household and purchasing items needed by the care recipient, the study noted.
For employees and members of credit unions, being proactive can save much financial stress down the road.
“There are steps people can take to mitigate the hidden costs of care giving and there are programs employers can put into place to help support their employees,” Sandra Timmermann, director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute.
Among them, checking with an employer to determine what benefits are offered and they would be replaced should a person have to curtail employment. Employees may want to also think twice about leaving their job to provide care because in addition to losing a paycheck, they could also be missing out on years of service required to become vested in a defined benefits pension plan, to receive matching 401(k) funds or to build Social Security benefits.
The MetLife study also suggested becoming knowledgeable about Medicare. The program is not all-inclusive. Employees need to be aware of the costs for premiums and deductibles. Some enrolled in Medicare may also qualify for Medicaid, which covers a range of health and long-term care services.
Some other findings from the study revealed that for women, the total individual amount of lost wages due to leaving the labor force early because of care giving responsibilities equals $142,693. The estimated impact of care giving on lost Social Security benefits is $131,351.
MetLife said a very conservative estimated impact on pensions is approximately $50,000.
In total, the cost impact of care giving on the individual female caregiver in terms of lost wages and Social Security benefits equals $324,044.
For men, the total individual amount of lost wages due to leaving the labor force early because of care giving responsibilities equals $89,107. The estimated impact of care giving on lost Social Security benefits is $144,609. Adding in a conservative estimate of the impact on pensions at $50,000, the total impact equals $283,716 for men or $303,880 for the average male or female caregiver 50 years old and older who cares for a parent, according to MetLife.
The impact of care giving on private pension savings is more difficult to estimate, the firm found. Two-thirds of all workers report saving for their retirement, and 59% expect to receive income from a defined contribution benefit plan. However, private savings for those aged 55 or older range from as little as $10,000 (28% of those aged 55 and older) to a high of more than $250,000 (23% of those over 55), reflecting the wide gap in accumulation of private savings.
According to MetLife, depending on the terms of the employer’s retirement plan, it is possible that even care giving workers aged 55 and older may not experience a significant impact to their employer-sponsored retirement income.
The study points out the need for employers to provide workers with the best possible retirement planning information. Employees in the 50-year old age range, which are often their peak earning years, are also at the greatest risk of being a caregiver for an older relative.
Other tips offered by MetLife include creating a budget for one’s own future retirement expenses meaning consider what portion of income is needed to maintain a current lifestyle after retirement. Some experts typically place it at about 80% of current income. Members and employees might also want to calculate the costs to keep a loved one at home and discussing that person’s legal, financial and medical wishes through a power of attorney, durable power of attorney and a living will.