10 Financial Tips to Make Caregiving Easier
Caregivers generally tend to their elderly or disabled family members as a labor of love, but it can also be taxing for them financially. These 10 tips can help your clients manage the financial side of caregiving so everyone feels more comfortable.
At some point in life, just about everyone becomes a caregiver to a family member or loved one. Whether it’s due to unexpected circumstances or old age, it’s important to prepare clients in the event they have to take on this responsibility.
If you are a caregiver or know someone who is, you probably have some stories about how overwhelming it can be—emotionally and otherwise. Being a caregiver requires love, time, and patience. It also requires some financial oversight—an aspect of caregiving that often doesn’t get the proper attention it deserves.
If you have clients who are caregivers or who may become caregivers in the future (which is everyone), now is the time to discuss the steps for effectively administering their loved one’s finances. Below are 10 financial tips for caregivers to share with your clients—before they are in crisis.
1. Talk about caregiving now, before it’s too late
Have clients discuss and build a caregiving plan in advance to prepare them for the unexpected. While discussing money with aging parents may seem difficult, it doesn’t have to be. The fact is, current and future caregivers need to know the answers to some key questions. They should also let their loved ones know that it’s in their best interest to address these issues now:
- Has their loved one saved money? If so, how much?
- What’s their source of income?
- Do they have investments and/or insurance policies?
- Who is their financial advisor, attorney, and CPA?
- Do they want to live in an assisted living facility or would they prefer to live at home?
- Have they planned for elder care and/or can they pay for elder care?
- Do they have long-term care insurance?
Discussing these things when the person is healthier and able to make decisions can make it easier for the caregiver to make the necessary decisions when the time comes.
2. Review estate planning documents
A caregiver should know if their loved one has prepared estate planning documents, and should make sure that their will and power of attorney are up to date.
A living will and health care proxy are some of the most important estate planning documents to take care of right away. They are more about how the caregiver would handle medical treatment while their loved one is still living, but can no longer express their health care wishes or make medical decisions on their own. Again, the best time to do this is while all parties are healthy and of sound mind. But, if that ideal time passes, it should still be a top priority. It’s never too late to get these things in order.
3. Keep financial documents organized and accessible
Important documents should not only be reviewed and updated, but also kept in a secure and accessible place. These documents include wills, powers of attorney, investment statements, insurance policies, bank account statements, and so on. They should all be kept together in one place with relevant passwords.
Action item: Look into eMoney, a financial planning software program that our firm has been using for over a year now. Along with building personalized financial plans and scenarios for our clients, eMoney allows us to offer them a secure place where they can store all of their important documents—the Client Site Vault.
The client can save files and create sub-folders in two folders: My Documents and Shared Documents. The My Documents folder stores private files and the Shared Documents folder stores files that clients want to share securely with their advisor.
4. Know what’s important to your loved one
Generally, a caregiver’s number-one priority is to do what their loved one would want them to do. For that reason, it’s important that caregivers take the time to talk with their loved ones about their preferences for receiving care:
- Is it important to them not to “be a burden” on their children?
- Are they OK with living in an assisted-living or nursing home?
- Would they rather live at home?
While caregivers may not be able to fulfill all of their wishes, they can make the best decisions possible if they know what their loved ones prefer.
Action item: Recommend that clients ask their loved one to write a letter expressing their desires and the reasons for their wishes. While documents such as living wills or health care proxies often cover wishes and instructions, they don’t cover feelings. A personal letter can serve as a reminder to the caregiver of the sentiment behind their loved one’s wishes.
5. Seek professional advice
Caregivers should seek two types of professional advice—financial and legal—when it comes to planning for their loved ones. While you may advise your clients on financial matters, it doesn’t always mean that you’re the best person to help them plan for their loved ones. Be honest with yourself. The type of advice a financial planner is able to provide varies and depends on the licenses they hold.
If you are not the best person to advise your clients in the area of elder-care planning, refer them to a colleague you can trust who can assist you and your clients. Even if you are qualified to help in the financial planning aspect, be sure to recommend an attorney for legal advice and a tax professional for tax advice, if necessary.
6. Look into public benefits
Many times, public benefits are available to assist with the care of the elderly. Veterans and their spouses may qualify for certain government programs (such as Medicare and Social Security). However, many veteran benefits are unknown to the average person altogether.
For instance, we have a client who was a Vietnam veteran. About three years ago, he was diagnosed with a type of cancer that was linked to a chemical used by the military in Vietnam called “Agent Orange.” As a result, our client was entitled to pension benefits for becoming a disabled veteran, even though his disability occurred more than 40 years later.
Moreover, once we found out about his eligibility to receive those benefits, we did some more digging and discovered that as a disabled veteran, he was also eligible for a discount on his property taxes. While these discoveries may take a little extra legwork, your clients will be grateful you helped them find benefits to support their loved ones.
Medicaid may also be available for those who are over age 65 or under the federal poverty limit. You can check the eligibility of your clients and their loved ones at BenefitsCheckUp.org.
7. Supervise finances even while the loved one still can
Since elderly parents’ ability to manage their own finances may begin to deteriorate at any time (sometimes as early as age 60), a caregiver should begin monitoring their spending and bank accounts the minute there are any signs of confusion or struggle. This is especially important to protect against fraud and late fees resulting from missed bill payments.
8. Keep them safe from scams and online hackers
More and more we have seen the elderly being targeted by email and telephone scams, as well as online hackers and scam artists. Recently, there has been a wave of IRS imposters who have used aggressive measures to collect supposed “unpaid taxes” from the vulnerable and unknowing elderly.
Caregivers should be aware of the real possibility that their elderly parents might get taken advantage of; being proactive is crucial in preventing such events. Continuously remind the parent or family member of potential scams. Give them examples. Tell them to never click on links in unfamiliar emails, avoid social media strangers, never answer personal security questions from an incoming caller, and always use hard-to-guess passwords. If the loved one is unsure of anything, the caregiver should encourage them to call immediately for advice.
9. Consider how the caregiver’s lifestyle and finances will be impacted
The last thing clients should do is allow their caregiving role to become a full-time job. While it may often feel like one, caregivers should try to keep working if they can. Having a job will help them maintain a source of income that can ease the strain of financially supporting their loved one, if that becomes necessary. More than that, keeping a job helps caregivers maintain a well-balanced life—as much as they can.
Many companies offer benefits to employees who become caregivers. For instance, they may offer paid time off when caregiving responsibilities arise, as well as offer some flexibility for arriving late or leaving early. Juggling work with caregiving can become extremely difficult, especially if people haven’t communicated their situation to their employer. In some cases, employers even offer dependent-care assistance programs which allow employees to pay for eligible care expenses on a pretax basis. It’s worth discussing.
Action item: Encourage your clients to review their employee handbook for possible benefits (like flextime or care-expense programs), and discuss their caregiving responsibilities with their employer. An open discussion also could result in the employer offering options that are not part of the organization’s typical procedures.
10. Take care and get support!
Caregiving can be taxing, and often affects a client’s life personally, professionally, and financially. For instance, the client may frequently miss work for doctor’s appointments and other caregiving obligations. It’s also common for caregivers to eat less or eat in a less healthy way, lose sleep, and feel too tired to exercise or even get their daily tasks done. Additionally, their personal and family finances may be affected.
Encourage your clients to take time for themselves and be mindful of their emotional needs. Local support groups exist where caregivers can feel a sense of community and talk about their feelings with people who will understand. Websites like www.caregiving.com can also help create a sense of community. Also, encourage your clients to maintain active communication with their spouse, siblings, and other family.
There’s been no sugar-coating here. Caregiving isn’t easy, but the proper preparation and planning will make it easier, less stressful and time-consuming. We, as financial advisors, should prepare our clients as much as we can for the possibility of caregiving in the future.
Securities offered through Securities Service Network, LLC. Member FINRA/SIPC. Fee based services are offered through SSN Advisory, Inc., a registered investment advisor.