What to Do When an Elderly Parent Runs Out of Money

It can be difficult to watch a parent grow old—even more so if they are facing financial and health care problems. And while you want to help at this stage, talking about these issues can be hard. Explore resources and tips to be of assistance.

It’s an unfortunate trend. Nearly half (48%) of Americans over age 55 have no retirement savings.The lack of savings has led to a growing number of parents moving in with their adult children.2 This in turn adds stress to the child-turned-caregiver and puts the aging parent in a difficult situation too.

of people over 55 have no retirement savings, leading to more parents moving in with adult children. Source: U.S. Government Accountability Office, 2019.

When your parents reach this stage of life, it may fall on you to ensure that they have what they need. That could mean watching expenses more carefully so the cost of their retirement doesn’t cut into your future. It helps to think creatively about your parent’s finances. Planning now may help later. Going over a parent’s finances is not an easy conversation to have. Here are some resources to help your elderly parent, if they’re running out of savings.

Help Them Budget

To understand what they have available, you first need to grasp where their money goes. If they live on their own, calculate their needs, such as utilities, housing, medical insurance and food. After that, look for ways to cut. Do they spend a lot on items they don’t need? Do they still have a gym membership, even though they haven’t gone for years? Do they have a number of unread magazine subscriptions? Walk them through what you see and discuss what could be taken out and what must stay.

If they live with you, then you may find even more ways to save. Do they spend on food, even though they eat with your family every night? Then combine food costs. Take them with you to the grocery store, and make sure they pick out a few things they want, but make sure they don’t needlessly spend money on food for the house.

Set the Plan, Then Check In

Many people struggle sticking to restrictions that they’ve placed on themselves. It can help to check in periodically to help your parents stick with it.

Learn About Medicaid

While your parent likely has Medicare, the coverage doesn’t typically provide 100% of medical expenses. If they can’t afford gap coverage and don’t have savings to support at-home care, they may consider Medicaid. This can be an especially powerful option if your parents live on their own.

What is Medicaid?

Medicaid is a joint program by federal and state governments that helps with medical costs for people with limited income or resources. For those eligible, it can cover things not covered by Medicare. 

The eligibility requirements and amount of services available through Medicaid depends on the state your parent lives in. By federal law, Medicaid will provide nursing care when they need full-time care. But some states also provide home and community-based services through Medicaid. A daily check-in by a nurse may be more suitable for your parents than full-time care. So this may give them that option.

Set Up a Power of Attorney

As your parent ages, they may want to have someone help handle their finances. This can be vital in situations where the parent doesn’t have many resources at their disposal. Your parent can work with a lawyer to set up a power of attorney if that makes the most sense.

Additional Resources to Consider

There are additional government and non-government resources to consider as well. Aging with Disability Resource Centers  can provide someone to meet with your parents and explain services that are available to them. If your parent is a veteran, the Department of Veteran Affairs  has a number of long-term care services. 

Also search locally. Your community center likely has some resources available. Community centers may connect you with local services providing inexpensive meals to seniors. Many also offer low-cost, communal activities such as exercise, games, book clubs, or even local outings. Making sure your parent is still having fun will keep them young as long as possible.

We're Here to Help

For help with your own financial plan, talk to an Investment Consultant.

1US Government Accountability Office, Retirement Security, Most Households Approaching Retirement Have Low Savings, an Update, March 26, 2019. https://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-19-442R

2AARP, More Older Adults Are Moving in With Their Children, February 5, 2018 https://www.aarp.org/home-family/friends-family/info-2018/adults-live-with-children-fd.html 

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