If you are in your early 50s, you are already planning about where to stay once you retire, what to do, etc. However, if you are in your 20s or early 30s you could play an active role in planning retirement for your parents. Not only will you feel more involved in their retirement, but it could be a good learning for you too. We are all going to live longer – which anyway scares us about using our money – and scared that we may outlive the money. However, longevity takes your worry beyond money. Retirement isn’t all vacations, second homes and visits with the kids, there are other difficult things to discuss too. So adult children should have at least one family meeting with the parents to discuss their long-term plans. Also make sure that all siblings are on the same page as far as long term care is concerned.
The truth is that the majority of people are going to require help with their finances, medical care choices, stay and location choices, need to live alone, caring for an ailing spouse, and many other needs after retirement. Financial decision making gets difficult after the age of 53 (yes you read it right, fifty three) even among healthy individuals. This is part of an American study and it is part of the aging process. More than this, in the Indian context, most of the older adults worry about loading their families with the task of managing the finances. Rather, of the thin and dwindling finances.
At some stage your parents will be TOTALLY dependent on you to manage their money. They will reach as stage when even making electricity payments, other utility payments, etc. will be a difficult task, and you will have to pitch in. So if as a 32 year old you know what your 65 year old parent is doing, it is easy to take full control at the parent’s age of 76 or when he/she has a serious issue. As a child do not look bewildered when the work is thrust upon you.
It is worth seeing the Fidelity study reports on Retirement – no Indian company wants to do such studies, so we pretend that we do not have such problems. Most people think that they will not need help in their old age, but 99% of my friends would know somebody suffering from Alzheimers or dementia. The ‘care taker’ service provider role almost always falls on the ‘mother’ or the woman of the house, but God does not have a gender bias. Not too many men are ready to be the caregiver – they have been brought up being ‘served’. So if your mother is the person needing care, she is going to feel guilty, your father is going to feel inadequate, and they are going to feel that they are a ‘burden’ on you. (Word burden I hear in every retirement class for seniors). Hey kid, get ready for all this. All this is going to happen at a time when you are in your 40s, your boss is threatening you with a VRS, your kids are throwing tantrums, and your parents are on a trip of not wanting to ‘burden’ you.
The financial and long term care discussion you want to have while you can still have, NOT when it is forced. I know children who do not take any interest with the attitude “it is his money, let him handle it” – to me this is escapism, and you will pay a heavy price. “Get off your ass and go and have a talk you idiot” – my plain and simple advice. Most people I meet say it’s very important to maintain the ability to manage day-to-day finances, I know in many cases the children do step in. In many cases adult children often need to step in and get more involved whether the parent wants them to or not. At the age of 75, it is a good idea for the children to do all the parental bill payments once in a while to see that all the things are being done efficiently. What really puts off this discussion for people in their 50s is the parental ego and the children’s own ego. One of you will have to give it up, quickly. This actually puts a burden on parents to formulate a clear strategy for their later years and that too in a well written form.
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