Are you ready for Dependents?

Dependents by Roland Tamayo
Dependents by Roland Tamayo
For most people, when they think of dependents they think of becoming parents. Usually the typical way to become a parent you have approximately nine months to get yourself as ready as possible to start taking care of a life that is not your own. You can come up with a plan and hope that you're ready but you never really know how ready you are until it happens. Suddenly you come home with a child, there's no instruction manual and even though you thought you knew what you were going to do everything comes out slightly different than expected. Not necessarily in a bad way, but your "plan" didn't unfold exactly like you thought, learning the best way to care for your new child might not even be the same as a previous one. And that's just day to day stuff that I'm talking about I haven't even mentioned how to prepare financially for a baby? Dee over at Color-Me-Frugal just recently became a parent and she has some good tips on how to prepare for a new child. But how ever much you prepare, get ready to be thrown off your game. In the words of a great philosopher:


"Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face." - Mike Tyson (on how opponents prepare to fight him) tweet this


Okay, okay... So maybe Mike Tyson isn't a philosopher but there's some truth in those words. Sometimes life punches you in the face. Are you ready for it? I'm not trying to compare having children to being punched in the face (even though I think I just did) but sometimes life can throw you a curveball that you weren't expecting.

For the most part, couples tend to plan for children, sometimes they plan out years in advance. But one thing that most people don't really plan for is adult dependents. According to many resources online such as Charles Schwab, Fidelity and Bankrate, the Baby Boomer generation is ill prepared for their impending retirement needs. Many have not saved enough and they won't be able to work for forever.

So what would you do if you found out that one of your parents didn't have enough money for retirement and was too old to work?

Would you be ready for an adult dependent?

In many cultures it's not uncommon to have multiple generations all living under the same roof. In some areas of the world this might even be more of the standard, where the "sandwich generation" provides for both the older and younger generation at the same time.

With the cost of retirement homes averaging about $50k per year (though this varies depending on location) it's no surprise that the sandwich generation exists! Who can afford to pay for that just to have a roof over their heads?

What if it wasn't just financial assistance? What if your parent needed physical care?

When I was growing up there was a period of time that really stuck out to me. It was the last few years of my grandmothers life, she started to get to a point where she needed more help with every day things. Luckily most of my family lives pretty close to each other so my mom and her sisters took turns going over to her house to help with dinner, groceries, or whatever else needed to be done. But over time there were a few sudden changes that happened rather quickly, the first was when the extra care switched to constant care. The switch from 3 or 4 hours every day to needing to be there 24/7 was a stressful change in everyone's lives. How much help she needed became progressively more and more over a few year span.

The second sudden change was much harder on everyone; my grandmother started showing some signs of dementia. She would get confused and had a hard time communicating, but through the whole thing my mom and her sisters kept her where she was the most comfortable, right in her own house. I really think that keeping her someplace familiar was better for her overall; if she was not in her own house then I'm sure her confusion would have been much worse. It was a very difficult time, but my family choose to make the time to take care of her by themselves.

At the time this happened I was in high school and while I knew it was a lot of extra work for everyone. I never really gave it a whole lot of thought, there were just nights when I knew my Mom wouldn't be home so I had to take care of myself for dinner or whatever else I might need.

I knew what my Mom was helping with but I never really thought about "actually" doing it. It's not whether I could do it or not, it was more of a question of would I be willing to take on these responsibilities for an unknown amount of time. Would I be able to help my parents bathe, be around to help them stand up, sit down and move around the house. Help them make all of their meals, be there in case they needed something in the middle of the night. And throughout the whole time see them slowly deteriorate.

Not until recently had I really thought about the kind of commitment that really was. I don't think I would ever want to leave my parents in someone else's care, I would want them as comfortable as I could make them and I know that would be with family, not strangers. But how would I know if I would be ready to take in an adult dependent? They would probably need more help and more complicated care than babies.

Be stable enough to be flexible

I don't know if anyone can truly say they would be "ready" for something like that because you don't know if it will ever really happen. Right now my own personal goal is to be financially stable enough to be flexible for any situation, no matter what it is. But as for being mentally prepared for taking in an adult dependent, I can't say anyone would know if they are ready. While this isn't something that you can easily plan for, you can try to be as ready as possible. Because sometimes, life will punch you in the face, so it's best to be ready just in case.

25 comments:

  1. I think this is a difficult thing to think about, especially at our age. I've tried to educate both my parents on the importance of saving for their own retirement, since both are over 50 now and haven't really thought about retiring. But caring for them? I don't think I've really pondered that yet. My wife has cared for her dying sister before, but I've had very little experience with death and people close to me.

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    1. BGM,

      I don't know if there's a good answer to this one personally. Being financially prepared yourself helps alleviate some of the stress and probably gives you more options, but it's impossible to know what you might need to care for adult loved ones. Even if you just had to help financially support an aging parent who could no longer work would be a difficult task. Chances are they would have to move in to make economic sense and that would dramatically change lifestyles of everyone.

      It's something that no one really wants to think about, and for most people it's not because of what you would or wouldn't do for a loved one. It's more of the idea that our loved ones will not live forever and that our parents are not super-human. I don't know what my parents might ever need assistance with, hopefully I have decades before that time comes, but the only thing that I could think of is to be financially set myself so that gives me more flexibility in the future.

      -Zee

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    2. Great point. We've financially supported a parent already, and it was tough. This parent never saved, never owned a house, and generally never gave the future a second thought. During that period where we provided a little bit of support, it was a challenge to not be bitter in a way.

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    3. BGM,

      I'm not sure which would be more difficult to handle - caring for a parent financially, or caring for them physically. The physical aspect of it would probably be a lot more work, a lot more demanding to make sure they are okay because they will depend on you for their well being. But caring for a parent financially while it's less physical work it's taking care of them for something they could have probably prevented.

      I'm sure that either way they would be challenging times. But perhaps it's something that your children will have taken note of, that you were willing to help when a parent was in need. I know that I noticed and it made me want to be more like my awesome parents.

      -Zee

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  2. It's a challenging topic. I checked my LTC insurance a couple months ago to verify it also covered in-home care. And (thank goodness) my parents have a policy as well. I want to be near my children at that point, but am not sure if I'll want to live with them as I have the fear of being a burden. Which is silly since I would gladly care for my parents -- a double standard for sure. :-)

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    1. Jean,

      I'm sure that everyone fears being a burden, but I think the answer lies in your own comment. Just remember what you would do for your parents. I'm sure your kids would rather be with you than leave you in some place that you're not happy.

      -Zee

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  3. I think you really hit a topic that has been lingering on my mind for awhile now. I've been thinking about how adult dependents will fit into this whole early retirement/freedom ideology. Still can't figure it out yet but at least I'll know that there are more options when money is no longer a worry.

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    1. Josh,

      Personally I think dependents are hard to fit into any life. I'm proud of myself that my dog is happy and healthy after 5 years! That's a personal record for keeping something alive that depends on me. Part of the reason my little dog is still thriving is because she is very important to me and I wouldn't want anything to happen to her, if my parents need help one day I'll gladly help because I would be lost without them. And like you said, being financially independent will give you more options. Being able to be flexible will make it easier for everyone.

      -Zee

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    2. Haha, your dog's lucky to have someone like you. Yes, I think it all boils down to the term 'financially IN-Dependence. We often forget that we ourselves are our own dependents. Once we have that sorted out, options will be there.

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  4. This thought occasionally passes through my mind. However, since my parents live in other states (I have four parents including step and not including my husband's which puts us at 7!), I'm not sure how we'd be able to help with day-to-day assistance. Thankfully I have siblings that live in the same state as my parents, so unfortunately, the burden will probably fall on them. Two of the 7 are financially prepared, I'm no so sure about the other 5.

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    1. Wow, 7 is a lot of parents to have to worry about. Not everyone will have to worry about this though, and usually if one parent is still capable enough they will take care of their partner before having anyone else step in.

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  5. Your story about your grandmother strikes a chord with me - thanks for sharing. My paternal grandmother lived a very independent life in Hong Kong. Widowed in her 30s, she never remarried and was the strong matriarch of the family. Until at the age of 85, she was stricken with dementia, deteriorating really quickly. As she could no longer cope on her own and at the time, the rest of the family were in the UK, there was only one option - she had to leave Hong Kong to live in the UK.

    I was at university at the time so only really heard bits from my parents but at the time, did not consider how confusing it all must have been for my grandmother to be taken away from her home.

    My parents were both still working full time so it was left to my uncle and aunt to look after her. I recall stories of her leaving the house not long after arriving in the UK and found wandering miles away - she was 'looking for her home'...

    She lived til the grand old age of 93 but her last years were surrounded by people she did not recognise. The last time me and my sisters saw her, she commented on how 'it was lovely that such friendly girls would come to visit her" - she didn't know who we were.

    I never truly appreciated how hard it must have been for my uncle and aunt (in particular my aunt) to have spent so long looking after an adult who was truly dependent on them.

    Me - I'm not sure that I could do it...

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    1. Weenie,

      Thank you for sharing your story too. It's difficult hearing about people that start to suffer from dementia, and heartbreaking to not have a loved one recognize who you are anymore. I also realize that the task of caring for someone in that state is extremely difficult. I saw parts of how difficult it was and I think it would be really hard for one person to do it on their own. Luckily for my mom she had her 2 sisters to help divide up the work.

      There's the saying that, "it takes a village to raise a child." Well, it definitely takes a team to care for an adult dependent.

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  6. Zee,

    Thanks for sharing your story and point of view. This is something I've been thinking about lately because a lot my co-workers' parents are looking for retirement homes. Very difficult topic, mostly because it's very personal and emotional.

    At my age it's really hard to look this much into the future. Taking on any dependent would be hard for me at the moment since I'm still building my own life.

    It's highly unlikely that my parents will have to be dependent on me, but if that were the case I'd probably try to find a solution that also involved my sister. That way we can support our parents equally.

    Best wishes,
    NMW

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    1. NMW,

      I think the main reason it's a difficult topic is because it's something that most people do not really do a lot of planning for. Some people may think of long term care insurance, but that's about as far as it goes.

      That's good that you think your sister would be able to help too, I'm sure it would make it easier to work things out when someone else helps too.

      -Zee

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  7. Ok. So this isn't about dependance in the same way so it is a little off topic, but I would be interested in an article about financially depending on a partner-not just married either. I have two people in my practice currently who struggle with this greatly. Their relationships are very lopsided in terms of finances. This creates issues around feeling stepped on, but also feelings of inadequacy for the other partner. For one couple, one makes significantly more than the other and spends money much more freely. He likes to travel and wants to take his partner with him, but the partner doesn't make that kind of money and feels like he is taking advantage of his partner. In the other situation, the couple runs a business together and one brings in a lot more business/ $$ and they share housework, etc. I am working beneath the surface with these clients, but I think for people who are not in therapy, an article around this issue may be interesting as it comes up a lot. I also work on the true "value" of money, which in a blog about saving money for a future value may be interesting since the pay off to involve yourself with someone who is not financially secure is not monetary, and is much more immediate. Just some thoughts...

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    1. An interesting topic you bring up there. I would have to think about it more since I think it really would depend on the circumstances of the relationship. How were their lifestyles before their partnership began? What would they be like if they were separate now? obviously there would be some changes, so finding a middle ground where both feel comfortable is best.

      I know that some people split costs relative to how much they earn, so if someone earns a lot more than the other and their monthly rent it $2000, then the higher earner might pay $1350 while the other person pays $650 each month to keep things fairer to their income to expense ratio. I think this makes a lot of sense for larger items like rent since if they were on their own the lower earner would probably choose a cheaper housing option to begin with.

      As far as feeling guilty for it... I think that involves open conversations on what you're spending money on, have the feelings of guilt even been expressed in the relationship? I know a lot of people don't even like talking about money let alone talk about guilt over money.

      Personally for me, I would prefer to help pay for someone to come with me on a vacation that I really want to go on because I think it's nicer to share experiences with people you love. Going alone on trips has a very different feel to it and while it can be nice, I think I prefer sharing moments with friends.

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  8. This is certainly something that most people don't think about. My parents are retired and luckily saved enough to be OK financially. But I can easily see how much stress would be added to life if my parents needed financial help.

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    1. Hopefully it's not something we ever have to worry about. I think the best take away from it for me is that I don't want to be a financial burden on anyone later in life. I know that I might not have a say in the physical care department since who knows what life might throw at me, But leaning on people financially is something I hope to avoid.

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  9. This is something that many people just don't think about, but absolutely should. Not only can parents be financially needy, but more importantly they can develop debilitating health issues later in life. I think the smart thing to do is to count on having some responsibility with parents, rather than looking at it as something that nobody wants to think about or consider. Because in reality, it's well within any bounds of reality that people might very well need to care for parents.

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    1. I think most people don't want to think about this for themselves because I don't want to be a burden on anyone later in life if I need help. I think I can hopefully avoid being a financial burden but if my health goes and I need physical care then that could be tough.

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