Are you potentially sharing your forthcoming retirement with your parents’ own retirement? It’s a situation many of us approaching retirement are facing, as aging parents require more support, care, and attention.
The sudden need to help with organising caregiving or to become a carer yourself, for example, can throw your own retirement plans off-course. You might also need to do more for them on a day-to-day basis, such as shopping, chores, gardening, organising house repairs, etc.
Over the years, I have witnessed a number of clients place their own dreams on hold for up to 10 years, often due to being the only person available to help their parent/s.
And 10 years is a long time when you are already in your early 60’s
An ever-growing list of “little jobs”
As one of my newly-retired clients is finding out, independent as his 93-year-old mum thinks she is, the job list keeps growing each time he visits her. It’s not that he minds replacing high ceiling light bulbs, or looking over legal paperwork (he has LPAs if required). It’s that these demands come at all hours, now that he is “free” from his demanding City job.
What’s more the pandemic has made him more “available” as his cruising around the world travel plans were scuppered. So now the phone rings two or three times a day, regardless of whether he’s playing golf, enjoying a midweek lunch out with his wife, or any of the other fun parts of retirement he’s finally got time to enjoy.
5 tips on balancing life with the parents
If you find yourself in this situation, here are five things to think about, to help you balance both your needs and theirs in retirement.
1. It is what it is
Change is inevitable, and people grow old. They may become more forgetful, less mobile, and increasingly reliant on others.
These changes will be hard for them too. Many aging parents are just as frustrated about not being able to replace the battery in a beeping smoke alarm as you are. This may lead to them resisting the need for assistance until the last minute.
Instead, try and have positive conversations early about in-home help such as cleaners and gardeners, progressing to daily home care with washing and bathing. Or introduce into conversations the suggestion of moving to a more suitable house that can be adapted to their needs.
If possible, give them a “free trial” of what such changes may feel like. Perhaps pay for a couple of hours of gardening, or a morning of fixes by the local handyman. Then, you can relax, knowing the chores are being taken care of, and you can get back to your golf!
2. Ask the family
If you’re the adult child who sees them most often, as your parents transition into the later phase of their retirement, you’ll notice the gradual changes. Your siblings and relations, who may only visit once in a while, won’t. What they see at their next visit might surprise or even shock them.
So, pave the way for them by describing the approaching difficulties, and ask for their help with sharing the load. That might involve one relation doing the weekly shopping, another taking on the financial ‘admin’ such as finding good energy deals and assembling important documents, and another becoming the tradesman liaison officer!
Just be careful that you don’t end up with one relative or sibling being the ‘fun’ one who takes them out on sunny days and gets all the praise for it. Resentment can quickly build between others who do the cooking or cleaning, take them to medical appointments, or get the shopping week in week out with little recognition or thanks.
Remember, there is a remarkable level of support available via the UK social care system, flawed though it may be. Again, you will need to ask for the help. Once you know what’s available, you can secure both financial and practical assistance that can make a difference in their (and yours) day-to-day quality of life.
3. Keep copies of important documents
One way to smooth the transition from coping to not coping is to locate and secure all the important documents you might need in the future. These include passports, driver’s licences, their NI and tax numbers, their bank accounts and investment details, insurance policies, paper copies of utility bills, tax returns, etc. It can be remarkably difficult to prove identity, for example, once both their passports and driver’s licences have expired.
Remember too to note down online passwords and any other important information that they might forget, such as credit card PIN numbers and telephone numbers for distant relations. Also find out where the house deeds are, and other important documents relating to any mortgage, loans or investments.
One client takes scans on her phone of important documents, and also scanned pages of her mother’s 50-year-old address book. She stores the images in a secure cloud storage account, (not on her phone), and she’s also told her siblings what the password is!
You should also ensure your parents have made a Will, and know where it is kept, either at home or at a solicitor’s office. If you find this awkward, remind them you don’t need to know what’s actually in the Will! If their Will is kept at home in the safe, make sure you know the combination or where the safe key is kept…
4. Know how much money they have
This is a really difficult question to ask, but it’s a fact that 7 out of every 10 people will need some form of long-term care during their lifetime. Again, it’s about thinking ahead, so you’re not using your retirement funds to subsidise or even pay for the second half of their retirement.
By working with them, a professional financial advisor and a retirement planner, you can help your parents organise their funds, however modest, to give them a cushion of money for long term care. Should their needs change, you are then aware of what is readily available, and get help to secure local authority care, or further self-funding such as equity release.
By setting up the two LPAs (Lasting Powers of Attorney) you can help them straight away if they become incapable of managing their finances and their health. Without LPAs, unlocking finances will be much more difficult, as will giving permission for medical treatment, or helping sell the house. That level of difficulty and resulting hassle will eat into your own retirement time. Selfish as it may seem, getting your parents’ paperwork in order will make your life easier, and in turn, make helping them much more straightforward.
5. Be positive
This is perhaps the most difficult of all. It’s all too easy to be resentful of the time, effort and hassle that even the most simple of tasks seems to involve. Remember, they were (usually) the dad who came to fetch you when you couldn’t get home after that late night party, the mum you rang six times a day when your newborn just wouldn’t stop crying, and the people who attended every football match or swimming gala, cheering you on.
Equally, if you only get to see them on birthdays and at Christmas, just think about how many more of these special days there may be left… Embrace their frailties, and make the most of the time you do have, however frustrating it might be.
Need help with helping your parents?
Contact us. We can help with all aspects of retirement planning, and Paul can help with finances as a regulated financial advisor.