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The Cost Of Caregiving And How To Avoid A Financial Crisis

KAYSVILLE, Utah — Many of us will face the responsibility of unpaid caregiving for a family member, and that care can be costly to our bank accounts.

Experts say there are steps you can take to avoid a financial crisis.

It’s a recipe for joy on a table full of memories for Susan Speirs of Kaysville. “She would stretch it out on a marble slab,” said Speirs, CEO of the Utah Association of CPAs, of the peanut brittle her mother used to make.

“We took care of my mom for 20 years,” Speirs said. “We were kind of thrown into it. We were the only siblings in the state at the time.”

When her mother got sick, she stepped in. Her mom had retirement income, but still the medical and other bills piled up.

“I started to get a little worried, I thought, ‘I can use up her assets, but then are we going to have to dip into our assets?’” Speirs said.

Susan Speirs, of Kaysville, cherishes her mother’s peanut brittle recipe. She cared for her mom for 20 years and found the costs involved were much higher than she realized. (KSL TV)

It’s a question 48 million unpaid caregivers in the U.S. might face. According to a new study by AARP, overall, caregivers spend a quarter of their income caring for a loved one. African American caregivers spend even more: 34%. For Latinos, half their income goes toward taking care of someone they love.

Bill Sweeny, AARP’s senior vice president of Government Affairs, said there are things you can do to prepare financially. That starts with planning ahead.

“The first step is to do it early before you need it. Because it really is hard to do. And it gets even harder as, as, as someone gets older,” Sweeny said. He also recommends having honest and open conversations with parents and relatives about their needs and wants as they age.

Next, he advised being realistic about what you can contribute financially. “Thinking about, ‘What are your capacities? What can you do? How much time can you commit? What are your financial resources?’ Kind of thinking through and putting that together into a plan,” Sweeny said.

Use resources like a financial planner to create a concrete plan for when the day comes, according to Sweeny.

Also, experts say you should keep contributing to your own retirement account, and avoid the mistake of using those funds to pay for caregiving. That’s advice Speirs agrees with.

“Especially if you have an employer that’s doing any sort of match. That’s like free money to you, or like a little raise,” she said.

Though the caregiving years were difficult, Speirs clings to the many sweet moments. “I got to know my mother in a way probably none of my siblings did,” she said. “I don’t regret that at all. It made taking care of her easier.”

She was smart with her wallet while caregiving, so her bank account didn’t take a hit.

For more helpful tips and resources for financial success while caregiving, click here.

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