Are High-Net Worth Clients Planning to Pay for Their Aging Parents?
We at AgingInvestor.com met with some forward thinking business owners, all under age 40, expressing their concerns about their aging parents. They weren’t sure what should be set aside or what to plan for their loved ones. Any of these business owners could be your HNW clients.
Some had purchased long-term care insurance for a parent and we were happy to see that good planning. Others figured they’d have to pay out of pocket when the need arose.
The gap between what older people think and expect and what really happens as we age is startling. And it is likely to throw the burden of paying for it on the financially successful adult children of these elders in denial. Some of their parents never had much wealth. Others have depleted their assets by outliving them or by other factors.
What about the dollars and cents? The Genworth Cost of Care Survey is done every year and provides average rates charged by service providers for homemaker services, home health aides, adult day health, assisted living and nursing home care across the country. And you can also search by state to see the average where a client’s parents live. Even the lowest level of care, someone to come in and help with cooking, shopping, laundry and errands averages $19 per hour, the national median hourly rate. The national median monthly rate for assisted living is $3500. And in my state, in urban areas and well-populated centers, it is twice that.
If your clients must consider paying for long-term help for their aging loved ones, it’s planning you need to do with them. It’s a special fund or targeted assets to be used for aging parents as needed.
Educate yourself first. Figure out how much it may take. According to a colleague who knows long term care insurance benefits, the average time a person with this kind of insurance collects policy benefits is three years or less. If it’s three years at $43,200 a year for assisted living, not factoring in the 2% annual increase in cost, that’s $129,600. And that’s under the unlikely scenario that a person who lives into her 90s, say, is going to stay level in what she needs over that three years. More likely than not, her needs will increase and the facility will charge more every month for more services. We see clients who are shelling out over $10,000 a month for a parent to be in assisted living. When parent is infirm and needs a lot of things from the staff, every new thing increases the monthly cost. A few years of that kind of expense can take its toll on your client’s retirement planning.
Near the end of our fruitful discussion, one of the participants asked, “What do the other 99% in our society do when an aging parent needs long-term care?” The answer: they either provide the care themselves at a very high personal cost, or their parent spends what assets he has until they’re gone. Then he ends up on Medicaid in a shared little room in a nursing home. No one wants to see that happen if you can help it.
Here are the takeaways to share with your HNW clients who may end up supporting aging parents or paying for their care.
- Look ahead. Discuss what needs your client’s family, particularly elders may have and what may be required from your client to meet potential obligations created by their family members.
- Consider whether your client should buy long-term care insurance for parents if their parents are not wealthy and have health issues. Do this before their parents turn 60 if you can. The elders may become uninsurable or premium cost may become prohibitive later.
- Educate your client about the real costs of long-term care. If they’re under 40 as our audience was, they are probably not thinking about their potential future obligations to parents who are not financially successful. This was an unusual group.
Smart planning now can save your client shock and distress later. If they are responsible folks, help them to expect the long run as their parents age. People in the 85+ age group are the fastest growing segment of our population. Most of these elders are not wealthy and someone will need to care for them.
When it Comes to Your Money, Does the Truth Hurt?
“We’ve been arguing about this for year, and here we are in our 50’s. It’s time to stop!” Laura said empathically.
Paul’s downcast eyes and silence spoke volumes.
Laura continued, “We’ve worked with several advisors who have tried to help us invest our money in a sensible way. Then whenever the market goes down, Paul calls the advisor and tells him to sell everything! In all these years, no matter how much we work to build our financial security, we’re always playing catchup.”
Her words hung like a rain cloud about to burst when Paul began to speak. “I know, I know. I just can’t help it. I get nervous that we’re going to lose all our money. When the market goes down, I scramble—in my thoughts and in my actions. The driving force behind it is: At least if it’s in cash, the balance won’t go down.”
This is the moment where I felt I could lend my advice. First, I needed to learn about this particular couple and their values. Then, I could begin helping them take control of their finances.
“Tell me Paul,” I said. “What did you learn about money growing up? What messages did you hear as a child about money? From your father? From your mother?”
Paul’s eyes moved up and to the left, indicating his mind was reaching for memory. “My parents never talked to us kids about money, really. The one thing that stands out is my grandfather talking about The Great Depression and how it was such a tragic time. My parents both worked, but they never made a lot of money. They fought about money sometimes.”
“Any other memories about money?”
“Actually, yes. I remember when my father took me to the bank to open up a passbook savings and how exciting it was. The bank manager typed the passbook on this old manual typewriter and gave it to me. He showed me how the interest on the account added to the amount I deposited. I felt very grown up that day! But I guess that was the sum total of money training from my parents.”
“Can you help me understand how you and Laura make financial decisions?”
The question couldn’t be more impactful if a boulder had landed on his head. While Laura looked at Paul with a mildly accusatory glare, Paul searched for something to say that would keep his well-conceived protective fortress from crumbling. I interjected to ease the tension. I could feel the guilt in the air.
“Let me frame that another way, Paul and Laura. We all do the best we can as we live our lives. Let’s face it, our lives are filled with responsibilities in our families and our jobs, not to mention outside interests, health, and friends. While financial issues are important, unless you either have the knowledge and experience—or the help, most people avoid getting too deep into the confusion of managing their finances by doing the very least they can. What we don’t know scares us. So we defer, delay, make rash decisions based on our lack of time, knowledge, desire. Add a dash of fear to that equation, and you have a formula for financial problems. I want you to know, you are not alone. It’s more common than you could even imagine. The question is, do we allow the truth in so that we can move forward?”
It’s important to admit the truth behind our actions in order to rectify past and future mistakes or regrets. Living in denial only perpetuates making decisions that could potentially lead to financial disaster.
“I hate to admit it,” Paul said. “I guess in my desire to protect Laura from stress, I’ve made decisions that have hurt us, and I’m sorry. Michael, you hit the nail on the head. You defer, avoid, and allow your emotions to take over. And as a result, bad stuff happens. I think I’m ready to ask for help.”
Laura’s expression softened, and said, half-kiddingly, “You think?”
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