Mom & dad took care of you. So now…
My parents, like many, started a family with almost no means, right after World War II. Their parents had lived through the greatest depression this country has even seen. Two things we didn’t talk about at home were war and money. All focus was on family and neighborhood support. Our parents took care of their parents, and stepped up to help the neighbors with their kids. People had front porches on which to socialize and phoned using “party lines.” For better or for worse, everything was everybody’s business. Some things haven’t changed. Today we call that the “internet” and “Facebook.”
However, some things have changed. The kids grew up and not only left the neighborhood, but also left their parents and grandparents to fend for themselves in retirement years. We, the Baby Boomers, are the “Sandwich Generation.” It seems as soon as we have raised our own kids and sent them off to college and jobs, we are faced with the robust task of helping with mom and dad’s health, as well as financial and general needs. No one taught us how to plan for that in school. The good news is, most American Baby Boomers recognize a responsibility to help mom and dad, and many American grandparents have made at least some effort to prepare for their golden years.
The following is a starter checklist to see that your family is off to a good start:
1. Hold “the talk” (at a holiday reunion, by phone, by email, by group text, etc) about mom and dad’s present and future wishes and needs for housing, health, and finances. What is already accounted for, and what still needs to be addressed? Who in the family will take the lead to help with day-to-day or emergency needs?
2. Break the “money silence” barrier. Have your parents identify one trusted person to have an ongoing knowledge of all of your family’s assets and debts, tax, and cash flow requirements. This could be a family member or a close friend. This person should be able to give early warning of issues and will be the first contact when problems occur. Consider working with a professional to create a cash flow analysis to determine potential shortfalls well in advance and design a plan within the family to resolve that shortfall. Could a reverse mortgage help with any shortfalls?
3. Confirm that mom and dad have updated their will, trust, and financial power of attorney within the last five years. The financial power of attorney is that person who may make general or limited financial decisions while your parents are alive, during a time of difficulty (something as simple as both of their arms are broken). Be knowledgeable about the person who is the estate planning attorney, executor, successor trustee, and where documents (and “go bag” back-up to documents) are kept.
4. Check what is, and what is not, covered by mom and dad’s Medicare and Medicare Supplements. Check all available government support options, e.g., Veteran’s Administration, Medicaid (in California: Medi Cal).
5. Check on all life insurance policies. Who is the owner, insured, beneficiary? Check with the issuer to determine whether the policy is still in force and ask them to add your name to their future premium mailings, should mom and dad overlook that bill and the policy is in danger of lapsing.
6. If mom and dad are under age 70, ask them to consider looking into long-term care insurance. Yes, it can be expensive, but with the average daily cost of long-term care exceeding $200 per day, insurance policies can make a great deal of sense.
7. If mom and dad are over 70, it’s never too early to start compiling a list of trusted caregivers, and assisted living facilities. Keep a running tally of their costs and services so you are prepared. Many children have expressed willingness to have mom and dad move in with them. That may or may not be a viable option. Hold the discussion about whether that is the best solution for both mom and dad, and you.
Remember the lyrics from the song “We are family … we’re giving love in a family dose?” Mom and dad took care of us for many years; now it is our turn to share the love.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.
Allen Ostrofe, MBA, CFP®, is President Emeritus of Ostrofe Financial Consultants, Inc., with clients in 32 states and is a registered Representative with, and Securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through Ostrofe Financial Consultants, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor and separate entity from LPL Financial. For questions or suggestions, visit ostrofefinancial.com. Branch address: 420 Sierra College Drive, Suite 200, Grass Valley.
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