Why Your Parents' Retirement Could Become Your Financial Burden

NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- With one in five Americans not having enough saved for retirement, it's inevitable that many retirees will wind up being taken care of by their adult children.

For example, Matthew Eskarous rents an apartment for his retired mother near his home in North Brunswick, N.J. He spends time with her daily and accompanies her to doctor’s appointments.

“It’s something I feel obligated to do,” Eskarous said.

The 37 year old is among the 28% of Americans who believe they will need to support or already support their parents financially in their senior years, and 86% of that demographic have concerns about their ability to do so, according to the Retirement and Senior Care Financial Planning Survey conducted by Harris Poll.

“Through our work with families, we find that it’s quite common for adult children to provide financially for their aging parents, but it’s not often clear if families had expected or planned to do so,” said Ed Nevraumont, chief marketing officer with A Place for Mom, a senior living referral service that co-commissioned the survey.

The survey further found that 42% of Americans have not discussed anything with their parents regarding how they will be cared for in their senior years, indicating that this care-giving in retirement often comes as a surprise.

“It’s an important reminder for families to start voicing concerns about retirement finances, as well as to make senior care a priority for themselves and for loved ones,” said Andy Smith, executive vice president of investments at The Mutual Fund Store, a registered investment advisory with 120 offices nationwide, and the other partner in commissioning the survey.

Minimizing the strain of caring for a retired parent requires that adult children incorporate that cost into their overall financial plans sooner rather than later.

“Adult children should first recognize that saving for retirement should not be their only financial goal,” said Taylor Schulte, a certified financial planner, and founder and CEO of Define Financial, a San Diego-based financial planning firm. “In addition to creating a plan that may include accumulating wealth, saving for a house, children, vacations, and their own retirement, they might also need to plan for the care of their parents.”

The first step is determining whether an aging parent will require financial assistance.

"Communication is essential in most financial-related matters especially when it comes to retirement planning," Schulte said. "It's important not to assume that parents have enough saved up for their own retirement, or that they have insurance and assets to cover care costs. Instead, address these conversations head on."

When allocating money to care for a parent, experts advise including housing and health care as well as the cost of retirement and aging -- for example, expenses related to employing a home health aide.

“Some mistakes we’ve seen include ignoring the topic of senior care and not talking about it with family members, assuming someone else will handle your aging parent’s care, not putting in the time for research or shopping to stay competitive with the costs involved and assuming that retirement costs and healthcare costs are straight-line costs,” said Smith.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.

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