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  • Archive for November, 2016

    National Family Caregivers Month: Leaving a Job or Working Part-Time Because of Caregiving

    Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

    November is National Family Caregivers Month, a time to think about the millions of Americans who take care of others. This year’s theme is “take care to give care”, a reminder that the first rule of taking care of others is to take care of yourself first. In acknowledgment of National Family Caregivers Month, WISER is publishing a series of blogs examining caregiving and the ways women can take care of themselves by planning for its financial impact.

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    Adding the job of caregiving to an already busy schedule can be impossible without some sort of sacrifice, be it sleep, socialization, or relaxation time. For some, that sacrifice is work—upon becoming caregivers, many leave their jobs or reduce their hours and work part-time. For some, this is the best option, but it must be considered very carefully. Be sure to exhaust other options before taking this step because it can have a tremendous impact on your financial future. Leaving your job will not only cost you your salary, but also benefits like retirement contributions and health insurance. If you do have to leave your job or reduce your work hours, here are a few things to think about:

    One important thing to consider before making any changes to your work schedule is where you are in the retirement and benefit schedule. If you are reducing your hours, find out the minimum number of hours you need to work to continue getting retirement benefits and health insurance, and try to work at least that much. Also try to stay at the job until you are vested, meaning you have worked long enough to have full ownership over the benefits you’ve received. Leaving your job before you are vested may mean forfeiting money that your employer has contributed to your account.

    It is also important to think about your insurance when deciding whether to leave a job or work part-time. Will you be able to take your benefits with you when you leave your current job? If not, where will you get health insurance and how much will it cost? Get some estimates before making a final decision. Having health insurance is important and not a sacrifice you should make for caregiving. Under a federal law referred to as COBRA, you may be able to continue coverage under your former employer’s policy for 18 to 36 months, but you will have to pay the full premium. If you are over 65, you are eligible for Medicare. Another option is your state’s healthcare Marketplace, which was established by the Affordable Care Act. Visit healthcare.gov or call 1-800-318-2596 to apply and find out more about your plan options. The Marketplace will also tell you if you qualify for free or low-cost coverage available through Medicaid.

    Also, consider how you will manage your money and continue saving toward retirement. Try to pay off credit cards and other debts so you are on stable financial footing before leaving your job. It is important also to create a budget to help you manage your funds and plan for any additional costs that might come from caregiving. WISER’s “Financial Steps for Caregivers” booklet has a great budget worksheet insert that can help you get started. Plan to continue saving for retirement, even if you are only able to save a small amount. If nothing else, resist the urge to spend any money you having in retirement savings accounts since that money can continue to earn interest, even if you are not working or contributing to it.

    Finally, do not take on the entire responsibility for caregiving if you have other family members who can help either physically or financially. If you have to leave your job, consider talking with your family about receiving pay for the care you are giving. Remember most of all that you need to protect your own future while caring for others. Check out WISER’s “Financial Steps for Caregivers” booklet which includes lots of other great information and resources.

    National Family Caregivers Month: What to consider when you first become a caregiver

    Thursday, November 17th, 2016

    November is National Family Caregivers Month, a time to think about the millions of Americans who take care of others. This year’s theme is “take care to give care”, a reminder that the first rule of taking care of others is to take care of yourself first. In acknowledgment of National Family Caregivers Month, WISER is publishing a series of blogs examining caregiving and the ways women can take care of themselves by planning for its financial impact.octopus woman juggling many things

    Taking on the role of caregiver is an overwhelming experience. It often requires one to act and make decisions quickly at a time of emotional trauma and with little background knowledge. In addition, because caregiving work is so personal and often takes place within families, people often don’t speak much about it with friends or in the public, leading to the mistaken belief that it is easy or not emotionally taxing. Imagine being thrown unexpectedly into a 24-hour job for which you may have no experience, yet are expected to perform perfectly and without pay? That is the experience of many caregivers.

    The financial aspect of family caregiving can be the most challenging aspect of the role as unforeseen expenses begin to pile up. Although it can be overwhelming, there are a number of initial steps you can take to plan and prepare for the financial impact of caregiving. The first step is to talk to your siblings and other family members about the various costs involved in providing care.  Caregivers who live with or live near the family member they care for tend to spend more time caregiving than others, so communication between family members is key- make sure they know the cost both in time and dollars that are involved and talk about how you can all help contribute. Keep in mind that you may need to hire services for your family member, such as transportation services, home health aides, or visiting nurses. In addition, you may need to make some modifications to your home to accommodate your loved one, such as bathroom grab bars, a hospital bed on the first floor, or a ramp. These costs add up quickly. If you are providing most of the care, consider asking your family to pay you as an independent contractor. If you are paid, you can even set up a small-employer type pension plan, such as a Simplified Employee Pension (SEP).

    Family caregiving can cause disagreements within families over responsibilities and decisions.  Many families may find it beneficial to create a legal document known as a “personal care agreement” that state what care is provided and how much the caregiver will be compensated. These agreements make the care and payment clear for the caregiver, the recipient, and also for other family members. It can help avoid family conflicts about who will provide care and how much they will be paid. More information on personal care agreements is available in WISER’s Financial Steps for Caregivers booklet.

    Stay tuned for more blog posts this month about ways to avoid compromising your own financial security while caring for others. In the meantime, check out WISER’s Financial Steps for Caregivers booklet which includes lots of great information and resources to get you started.

    National Family Caregivers Month: What is caregiving and why does it matter?

    Monday, November 7th, 2016

    thumbnail_caregiver-juggling-smileNovember is National Family Caregivers Month, a time to think about the millions of Americans who take care of others. This year’s theme is “take care to give care”, a reminder that the first rule of taking care of others is to take care of yourself first. In acknowledgment of National Family Caregivers Month, WISER is publishing a series of blogs examining caregiving and the ways women can take care of themselves by planning for its financial impact.

    Many people who are caregivers do not actively identify as such, and many are not even aware that they are part of a defined group. Do you care for an elderly parent or a disabled sibling? Do you stop by your neighbor’s house daily to help them with certain tasks, like measuring out medication or cooking? These may seem like common tasks that you do simply because it’s the right thing to do. However, caregiving is a time-consuming duty that warrants recognition. It can often take up as much time as a full-time job, yet isn’t paid, and can actually be a drain on your finances. Estimates suggest between 40 and 70 million Americans nationwide provide 37 billion hours of caregiving work each year.

    Some of the jobs caregivers take on include:

    -Home keeping duties like laundry, cleaning, cooking and shopping

    -Medical tasks like picking up, dispensing and measuring medicine, aiding in medical decisions, driving to and from doctor’s visits and helping with medical tasks like physical therapy or changing feeding tubes

    -Helping with end-of-life decision-making like writing a will or hospice care

    -Financial tasks like banking and paying bills

    In our society, caregiving duties frequently fall on women. According to the Family Caregiving Alliance, the “typical” caregiver is a 46-year-old woman who spends 20 hours per week taking care of her mother and also works outside the home. In total, about 61% of caregivers are women.

    Caregiving duties impact finances in a number of ways. The time caregiving requires can cause people to work fewer hours at their jobs or decline promotions that require more time or travel. According the National Alliance for Caregiving, 70% of caregivers report making adjustments to work schedules to accommodate caregiving responsibilities. Making these sacrifices at work causes a reverse snowball effect: not only are you forfeiting pay, but also benefits, compounded return on 401(K) matching contributions, and investment opportunities. There are also a countless number of more subtle consequences, for example, you may not be able to pursue additional education and degrees that could increase earning power.  Caregiving is also simply expensive: a MetLife study reports that caregivers pay an average of $5,531 annually in out-of-pocket costs.

    The financial hit of caregiving also overwhelmingly impacts women. In combination with the other challenges women face- like the pay gap- the cost of caregiving puts women at a disadvantage when it comes to saving for retirement. The same MetLife study also showed that caregivers lost $303,880 in wages, Social Security benefits, and private pensions over their lifetime as a result of caregiving responsibilities.

    Stay tuned for more blog posts this month about ways to avoid compromising your own financial security while caregiving. In the meantime, check out WISER’s Financial Steps for Caregivers booklet which includes lots of great information and resources to get you started.

    WISER

    About Us

    WISER is a nonprofit organization that works to help women, educators and policymakers understand the important issues surrounding women's retirement income. WISER creates a variety of consumer publications including fact sheets, booklets and a quarterly newsletter that explain in easy-to-understand language the complex issues surrounding Social Security, divorce, pay equity, pensions, savings and investments, banking, home-ownership, long-term care and disability insurance.

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