Debt and stress are common outcomes of caregiving, but millennials also face other factors that can affect their home life and careers. And amidst the student debt crisis and economic volatility, there seems to be no end in sight - particularly for women, who earn about 80 cents on each dollar a man earns throughout their lifetime, and face a higher threat of poverty during retirement.
To avoid extra financial and mental stress, follow these three steps to prepare for the challenge of caregiving:
Define a realistic caregiving budget
You should never have to sacrifice your financial wellbeing to care for an aging relative. A simple solution is to adapt the 50-20-30 Rule to create a budget for yourself while also suiting your financial obligations for caregiving.
First, determine your post-tax income. The first 50% of your funds should be allocated to your necessities such as housing, meals, and transportation. This is where you can insert a reasonable budget for caregiving. Allocate 20% to your savings and paying off debt. Use the remaining 30% to fund anything you want - from meals out to vacations and gym memberships.
By defining the exact value of caregiving you can provide, you'll never feel as if you’re not meeting your own needs. If spreadsheets aren’t for you, use low-cost budgeting software and apps such as Quicken, Mint and You Need a Budget.
Help your loved one map out a solid care plan
Once your finances are in order, you’ll be in a better place to help your loved one map out a solid long-term care plan. You may be surprised to learn that Medicare and Medicaid may not pay for certain health and wellness services. As a safety cushion, encourage your loved one to establish a separate savings account for just healthcare.
They should also consider applying for long term care insurance to defray overwhelming costs down the road. From chronic health conditions to Alzheimer’s, it’s never too early to brace for unexpected expenses. Another possible financial cushion is term life insurance. Opting into a low-cost policy today can ensure that your relative is able to live a fulfilling life, even if you’re not there.
Set boundaries and keep them
Once your joint finances are in order, you will be in a better place to balance your caregiving responsibilities with your personal and professional goals. While it may seem counterintuitive, putting your wellbeing first will ensure you’re more present and helpful in the life of your relative.
Treat your hobbies, workouts and other extracurriculars like a job or a class that you must attend at certain times during your week so they don’t become deprioritized. To prevent self-neglect, regularly consult with your doctor or nutritionist regularly to maintain good health and a balanced diet. Connect with a therapist or counselor to ensure your mental health is also nurtured. If you aren’t able to afford professional consultation, take advantage of apps like Talkspace, Sanvello, and Moodfit to boost your health throughout the day.
As you continue your caregiving journey, it’s important to keep in mind that you’re never alone. The boundaries you set as a caregiver not only help you maintain your personal health and wellness but can preserve vital personal relationships and even your career. Rather than selflessly give all you have, keep tabs on your financial, emotional, and physical needs. Ensure that you are taking the time to enjoy what you are doing every day and are taking steps to achieve a purposeful life.