What We Won't Do For Them

Our willingness to support our parents isn't unlimited

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We Won't (Or Can't) Have The Hard Talks

Overall, 45% of us say: "My parents plan to live independently as long as possible but have made no plans beyond that."


A surprising 26% of us say: "I don't know what plans, if any, my parents have made for their later years."


Even if our parents do have thoughts about where they hope to live in very old age, many of us don’t know what they are. This pretty much holds true across demographics: male, female, young, old, lower or higher household income. “It’s not unusual for members of a senior residence to talk to each other about funerals, long-term-care insurance, what happens when they get sick,” says Harry Moody, former director of academic affairs for AARP. “What is unusual is adult children having those conversations in advance with their parents. People think about these things, and they talk about them—but not necessarily with the people who will be affected.”

We Won't Write a Blank Check

Women over 55 are four times as likely as men of the same age to report being very or somewhat concerned about someday having to provide financial help for a parent. Across every age group, women feel significantly less financially prepared than men for their own health emergencies (42 percent versus 63 percent) and their own futures (44 percent versus 65 percent). Not surprisingly, women are less likely than men to say they will be able to help their parents financially (37 percent versus 56 percent).

“The financial security of midlife women is more precarious than that of midlife men,” says Lynn Friss Feinberg, senior strategic policy adviser at the AARP Public Policy Institute. “We earn less; we have less in savings; we are more likely to have dropped out of the workforce to raise kids. And women who take on a caregiving role for a parent are much more likely than men to experience lost wages.” Women’s financial pessimism appears to extend to their estimation of their parents’ situation as well: Women (54 percent) are significantly less likely than men (72 percent) to believe their parents are financially prepared for retirement.

We Won't Escape Our Fears

People who have a college education, are married, or have kids worry the most about having to someday support Mom or Dad financially.


Next: Who Will Take Care of Us?


Previous: What We Will Do For Our Parents

First published in the September 2013 issue

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