5 Tips to Help You Avoid Burdening Your Children in Retirement

Last Updated Nov 11, 2010 10:55 AM EST

I've often heard from people who attend my retirement workshops that Americans are worried about being a burden to their children in their retirement years; some say it's the last thing they want. This anecdotal knowledge was recently confirmed by a report released by Genworth Financial titled Our Family Our Future: The Heart of Long-Term Care Planning.

Genworth's survey respondents reported that they're five times more likely to be worried about being a burden on their family than they are about dying. They also reported that moving in with family members or asking them for support are the two least desirable actions they would want to take to ensure a comfortable retirement. When it comes to long-term care, about half of the survey respondents reported that they don't want to interfere with the lifestyles of family members or put financial pressure on them.

If you're one of the many individuals who to avoid the above unfortunate outcomes, here are five planning tips to help prevent you from becoming a burden to your children:
  1. Do the math to make sure you have enough lifetime retirement income to cover your living expenses. Many people retire with retirement savings that aren't sufficient to generate enough income to last the rest of their lives. The inevitable result is that they'll run out of money in their seventies or eighties, with many more years still to live. In this case, they might need to turn to their children, either for financial support or to move in with them. Instead, if you have a more realistic idea of how much retirement savings you really need, then you might delay your retirement until you can truly afford to retire and live independently.
  2. Have a plan for paying for long-term care expenses. The Genworth study reported that at least two-thirds of people will need some form of long-term care after age 65, so it's best to plan for this possibility.
  3. Take care of your health. You can significantly reduce the odds of contracting one of the debilitating, expensive medical conditions that often hits Americans late in life by taking steps now, such as adopting a healthy diet, getting proper exercise, managing your stress, and stopping smoking, if applicable. These actions can reduce the possibility of getting wiped out by high bills for medical or long-term care expenses.
  4. Develop and nurture a robust social network of friends and family. Not only will you enjoy life more, but you'll have people who can come to your aid in the event that you need help. And studies show that people with a robust social life are healthier and live longer, compared to people who are isolated. My wife tells the story of her mother, who in her later years would be waiting at the porch for my wife to return home from work. This was a warning sign to my wife that her mother was lonely and needed help, even though she was functioning well on her own when it came to day to day tasks.
  5. Talk with your spouse and family about your financial plans for retirement, including how you'll cover your living expenses and your strategies for long-term care. There's a good chance that at some point in your life, you'll need them to help implement your plans. It also gives them some assurance that you've thought about the future and that you'll be OK in your retirement years.
It's admirable and entirely understandable that people don't want to be a burden on their families. By planning ahead, you can help avoid this fate, so that you and your children can truly enjoy each other in your later years.

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    Steve Vernon helped large employers design and manage their retirement programs for more than 35 years as a consulting actuary. Now he's a research scholar for the Stanford Center on Longevity, where he helps collect, direct and disseminate research that will improve the financial security of seniors. He's also president of Rest-of-Life Communications, delivers retirement planning workshops and authored Money for Life: Turn Your IRA and 401(k) Into a Lifetime Retirement Paycheck and Recession-Proof Your Retirement Years.

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