Retirement Planning Is a Family Affair

By Maddy Dychtwald

Over the years, the boomer generation has received some flak—often characterized as being selfish, irresponsible, and self-indulgent. Whether or not that’s true in general, it’s certainly not true when it comes to the way they think about and feel about their family. In fact, as this massive generation moves into and through retirement, they are often putting the well-being of their children, grandchildren, and even their parents before their own.

At Age Wave, one thing we have learned through decades of in-depth research and analysis of aging, longevity, and retirement well-being is that family—whether it is your family by blood or your family by choice—is the number-one priority for most Americans, profoundly impacting our decision-making. We want to do what we can to strengthen family ties throughout our lives, especially as we hit our retirement years.

Oddly, retirement planning has generally not taken this top priority into account. Traditionally, retirement planning has been focused on the individual or couple rather than the family. This needs to change because, what has become clear from our research is that retirement—at its core—is really about family.

To help you consider the role of family in your own retirement planning, here are a few suggested action steps from Age Wave’s award-winning research findings:

  1. Plan for a 100-year life path. While you may not live to 100, you don’t want to outlive your money or your health. More and more older adults are living into their late 80s, 90s, and beyond—in particular women who live, on average, six years longer than men. Along the way, expect some surprises. Stay flexible and know you may have to make course corrections along the way.
  2. Create a caregiving plan and communicate it to your family. Being a burden on family is one of the top worries of retirees. You may need emotional, physical, or even financial support in your later years, so be sure to figure out what you would ideally want if you need some form of caregiving. And communicate that to your family, especially since those family members may have to play a key role in caregiving or at least execute on your plan.
  3. Budget in advance to provide financial support to family members. As one focus group participant told us, “I thought I would be supplementing my grandchildren’s college funds. It turns out I was the college fund.” Sixty-two percent of Americans age 50+ today are providing financial support to family members, especially adult children and grandchildren. Yet Age Wave’s research found that a vast majority of people age 50+ have never budgeted to provide financial support to other family members (88%), caring for an aging parent or relative (91%), or helping to pay for their grandchildren’s education (91%)—even though they are highly likely to provide such support.
  4. Create boundaries with family members. Balance your retirement security with providing financial support for your loved ones. You don’t want to jeopardize your own financial well-being, especially if it means you might later need financial support from the very loved ones you’re trying to help.
  5. Expect to pay healthcare costs in retirement. Most people assume Medicare will cover all medical costs once you hit age 65. But that’s not the case. Potential out-of-pocket healthcare costs during the retirement years must be factored into your retirement planning. At the very least, consider a solid Medicare supplement plan.
  6. Prepare a legacy plan and discuss it with your family. As difficult as this topic may be, planning for end of life will protect your legacy, especially in terms of the way your family will remember you. You need a healthcare directive and a will—and, once again, you need to discuss it with family members. It will create peace-of-mind for everyone involved.

To learn more about Age Wave’s groundbreaking work on well-being in retirement, including how to bring Maddy Dychtwald’s acclaimed presentations to your organization, click here.