By Catey Hill
Roughly 10 million people over 50 are taking care of an aging parent – a rewarding responsibility, but one that can also be a source of financial strain.
According to a new study by the MetLife Mature Market Institute, the financial impact of caregiving may take a heavy financial toll:
- The percentage of adult children taking care of their parents has tripled since 1994.
- The financial toll on caregivers 50 and older averages $303,880 per person in lost wages, pensions and Social Security benefits over a lifetime.
- Women face an even higher cost: $324,044, which is comprised of $142,693 in lost wages, $131,351 in lost Social Security benefits and $50,000 in lost pension benefits.
“Caregiving responsibilities may have a dramatic economic impact on both men and women through lost wages due to either reduced hours worked or leaving the workforce early and diminished Social Security benefits or private pensions,” the study concludes.
Of course, financial implications or not, caregiving is a part of your life that you would never give up. So, SmartMoney has put together a list of three things to help caregivers out financially:
Look into caregiver-friendly opportunities
No doubt, it’s a tough time to find a new job, and even tougher for caregivers who are juggling their caregiving and career responsibilities. Some companies seem to understand this juggle better than others. Accounting firms PricewaterhouseCoopers, Delotitte and Ernst & Young are known for offering flex-time, elder care benefits and work-from-home opportunities. Click here for details. Or, for the millions of caregivers who need to remain at home to give care to a parent or would like to earn a little extra money to offset caregiving expenses, sites like oDesk.com of eLance.com offer myriad work-from-home opportunities.
Use all available caregiving tax breaks
If you claim your parent as a dependent, you can get an exemption of $3,650 off your taxable income; you should also consider deducting caregiving expenses like medical travel and supplies. If you and your siblings are sharing caregiving responsibilities, look into using the IRS’ “Multiple Support Declaration” form, and if your company offers a flexible spending account, use it for tax-free savings to help you pay for caregiving expenses. For details, click here.
Carve out some time for yourself
Among working women 50 and older, 20% of caregivers report just fair or poor health — more than double the number of non-caregivers, a 2010 study of employees by the National Alliance for Caregiving and the MetLife Mature Market Institute found. And that can get expensive, especially considering that these folks commonly suffer from diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol. To save money in the long-run on your own health care costs, consider using an adult day care (about $75 per day) or hiring a temporary home health aide once or twice a week so that you can make time for doctor’s appointments, exercise or de-stressing activities. It might also help to attend a free or low-cost support group for caregivers. Click here for details.