The Crisis Facing America’s Working Daughters

This week’s Money in the Media Monday article is one that I identify with very strongly based on my financial history. “The Crisis Facing America’s Working Daughters” from The Atlantic is a little known and very necessary take on elder care.

There is a great deal of necessary conversation currently taking place on how best to support working parents. The other side of this coin, however, working children of aging parents, is not normally mentioned. Even though, per the US Census Bureau, there are currently 44 million unpaid eldercare providers in the US. Unsurprisingly, over 50% of these caregivers are women.

Another Side of the Income Gap

Having to take care of an aging parent can become a full time job. This is not conducive to the many women, most often in their mid 40s, who are already working full time jobs. Sixty-two percent of women, who are caregivers do so for over 20 hours per week.

As a result of this caregiving effort, women will reduce their hours to part time or change to a less demanding position. “A study from MetLife and the National Alliance for Caregiving calculated women lose an average $324,044 in compensation due to caregiving.” When adding in the wage gap between men and women, the number becomes even more staggering.

Losing this income, not only can affect the lives of these women and their families today, but also in the future. The average lifespan of a woman exceeds that of a man by 2 years, meaning that they will need to fund their retirements for an additional on average. Having an underfunded retirement will just exacerbate the problem once they begin to age.

As 10,000 Baby Boomers reach age 65 every single day, the AARP predicts the need for caregivers in the US to grow by ~6 million by 2030. In order for companies to replace those that quit their jobs to be caregivers, they will need to spend an estimated $3.3 BILLION. Yep.. That’s with a B.

The Emotional Toll

While there are very real consequences for lost income and medical expenses to take care of an aging parent, the emotional toll can be even more draining.

Caring for an aging parent is a much more significant life passage than we give it credit for being. When you are caring for a child, it doesn’t threaten your identity. Because that’s what parents do. But when you are a daughter, you are cared for. You turn to your parents for refuge. When they seek refuge from you it shakes your identity.

Anne Tumlinson, a health-care-policy analyst and consultant who also runs

Where I Disagree

The article expressly states that eldercare is not a problem that can be solved with money, however, being in an eldercare situation where money is a bit tight, more money would definitely help.

What they mean though is that even if you have the cash to hire some help, your parents still may just want their children to be their caretakers. In my own experience, this is not relevant as my dad was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s so he is not aware of who is taking care of him anymore. I understand what they mean here; just disagree with their wide sweeping declaration on the topic.

What Can You Do?

The first thing that you can do is to ensure that your financial health is good while you are young to set yourself up for success in case you ever need to care for an aging parent. Figuring out not only how best to care for them is enough. You do not also want to be trying to figure out where your next meal is coming from.

Next, start talking with your parents or any other older friends or relatives for whom you may need to provide care. Begin the ongoing conversation to ensure you know not only their financial health, but also what their wishes are for their care and well being.

The last major task (prior to anyone actually needing care) is to make certain that both you and your loved ones have their estate planning documents in order. Most people hear estate planning and think that it must only be for someone who is wealthy. This is wrong. When I mention estate planning, I’m mostly speaking of what I will call the legacy starter pack:

  • Will– defines your wishes for the care of minor children, pets and distribution of your property.
  • Advance Healthcare Directive (Living Will)– defines what actions should be taken in regards to your health if you are no longer able to make those decisions due to illness or incapacity.
  • Power of Attorney– Allows you to appoint a person to manage your affairs if you eve become unable to do so. These are decisions related to your care, finances and everyday life.
  • ICE Information– I highly recommend Smart Money Mama’s ICE Binder for this. It gives your family all of the information needed to run your daily life. Everything from insurance policies to your vet’s name and your child’s favorite recipe. This will help pave the way for your family to not also have to work through a logistical nightmare at the same time they are dealing with everything else.

There is not enough support for unpaid eldercare providers and that legislation cannot come soon enough. in the meantime, it is crucial to build a solid foundation to protect you and your loved ones.

Are you currently caring for an aging parent or loved one? Did you find this article helpful? Let me know in the comments below!