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The financial side of being a caregiver

One in five Americans is currently an unpaid caregiver, and as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, that number is on the rise.1 Caring for a family member can be complex. While deeply meaningful and rewarding, it can also present challenges, both emotionally and financially.

If you may need to step into a caregiving role for an aging loved one or a family member with disabilities, it’s a good idea to plan a financial strategy today, before it becomes an added stressor. Here are some questions to help you get started:

What do you know about your loved one’s financial situation? Knowing the particulars of your loved one’s disability, life and health insurance policies, savings and financial obligations can make it easier to step in on a moment’s notice. Obtain contact information for the financial professionals your loved one works with so you know who to go to if you have questions.

What is your strategy to pay caregiving expenses? First, think about what bills and expenses your loved one is currently paying that you may need to make on his or her behalf. Encourage your loved one to set up automatic bill pay or to add you as a second signer on a bank account to make handling expenses easier. Next, consider what expenses you may incur as a result of your caregiving role, such as out-of-pocket medical care or home improvements needed to accommodate your loved one.

What is the financial impact if you need to take time off from work? If you are employed, you may be covered by the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). With this federally mandated program, eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for an immediate family member while health benefits continue. Some companies allow employees to stockpile sick days and vacation days; if you can use this kind of accrued time off, you’ll still get paid. Liquid savings of your own can help to cover your expenses if you need to take unpaid leave from work.

Are your loved one’s assets legally protected? Being proactive from a legal standpoint can help ensure your loved one’s wishes are known and assets are protected during a prolonged illness. Power of attorney, or a durable power of attorney, gives a trusted party the ability to make important decisions about finances and health care. Another legal document that can help is an advanced directive, which outlines specifics for medical and end-of-life care. When these documents are in place, you have clear guidance on how to manage your family member’s affairs.

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Who would you turn to for support? Talk with other family members about their willingness to help and how responsibilities might be divided. Research social service and community organizations in your area to see what support is available for caregivers. Remember, you can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself – so be sure to take time for your own well-being, whether that’s hiring someone to help around the house or speaking to a licensed therapist.

How will you balance your financial goals with caregiving expenses? Caregiving often requires more immediate expenses that can make it challenging to focus on saving for your child’s college education or your own retirement. Developing a plan to continue saving toward long-term goals may help you reduce your financial stress down the road. Financial planning under the guidance of a financial advisor can help you anticipate and prepare for caregiving and other future events that may impact your finances.

1 AARP Caregiving in the United States, 2020

–Jim Hanna, CFP®, MBA, CKA®, is a Private Wealth Advisor and Certified Kingdom Advisor® with Heart Financial Partners a financial/private wealth advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial Services, LLC. in Topeka, KS.  He specializes in fee-based financial planning and asset management strategies and has been in practice for 26 years. To contact him ameripriseadvisors.com/james.c.hanna, 785.357.6278 x19, 601 S Kansas Ave., Topeka, KS 66603. Investment advisory products and services are made available through Ameriprise Financial Services, LLC, a registered investment adviser. Ameriprise Financial Services, LLC. Member FINRA and SIPC. © 2021 Ameriprise Financial, Inc. All rights reserved.