I had an epiphany


My mother lives with me, and I am her sole caregiver. Mom has some real issues, especially mobility related, but all of her recent lab work reads stable, and a recent chest X-ray reads clear. Which isn’t stopping her from trying to convince everyone that her kidneys are failing and she should be on oxygen (one of her sisters, after multiple bouts of pneumonia, now has an oxygen line in the house). I have a sister but she lives several states away so it’s just me dealing with this (sister does call and talk to Mom regularly, she’s just not physically present). For years I’ve heard people talk about the importance of having children to take care of you in your old age, but nobody mentions the toll this takes on the caregiver. It’s a mental, emotional, and financial toll. I have no children and people used to think that was so sad. But I have socked away a retirement account so I will be okay. In fact, I should be better then, when various things start paying out, than I am now. And after recent events with my mom I am glad I have no kids. Extended family won’t have the burden of putting up with crazy auntie should I ever get like my mom. My will and POA’s, the financial planning I have set up, all will work to prevent me from becoming a burden. I hope, of course, that they will care enough to be a part of my life, but it will be because they want to, not because there isn’t anyone else to take me in. Our relationship won’t be based on feelings of obligation. So I’m actually happy I don’t have kids. If you are still reasonably young or have family just beginning their working life, please put thought into your finances for your “Golden years” as they call them. When we are young it is easy to make excuses for putting this off; but if you are young, you also have the time and flexibility to start small and let it grow. Don’t put it off thinking you can make it up later.

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I hear you, McAlvie! Thank you for starting this thread. I chose not to have kids.

Many years ago I read [I don't recall the source] that people with children believe their kids will take care of them in their old age. That's their plan. We all know that doesn't always happen, so the parents aren't mentally/financially prepared why they're in a nursing home. On the other hand, people with no children are more prepared for the reality they may not have family members to care for them and they make their own plans and preparations.

Like you, I have all my paperwork and finances in order. Being a parent or not, you're right that everyone must look to their future and plan for it. Too many put it off and then it's too late.

The other thing I noticed is that my parent's parents that got dementia... both my grandmother and grandfather lived only about 2 years max from the time they got dementia symptoms until they passed. Seems to be much different nowadays.. my Dad has had dementia now for 5+ years and my mom for 2+years. Seems like people are now living much longer with dementia ..

My parents did not plan.. at all for them to have dementia. They were so healthy all their lives..

I think sometimes we unfairly slam our parents for lack of a plan when it would be more accurate to say that their plans became outdated. Expecting their money to last because they would die in their 70's or 80's was realistic planning for someone from their generation, who could have imagined even 20 years ago that our nursing homes would be filled with centenarians? And who could have foreseen the rise of dementia, or the high cost of assisted living? And even today people tend to overlook the effect of inflation, who knows what our nest egg will buy in 20 or 30 years - I'm sure my parents thought mom's $1000 life insurance policy was generous.

You are so right Sunnygirl!

My parents had 4 children. My 2 sisters do not even call or send cards at this point.. my parents really no longer not exist to them. My brother will call and visit (but rarely.. and usually only at my prompting)

When I visit the memory care facility I am often the only family member there.. and there are 14 other residents besides my parents. Most of the residents (if not all) have children and grandchildren , spouses that live nearby.

My parents do have me..but if I did have children I would not want to burden one poor child with everything like what happened to me and many others on this forum. I intend to get my ducks in a row for myself...as much as possible .. I have no one to lay the burden of my care on.

I think marrying or having children to have someone to care for you in illness or old age is probably not a good reason to do either.

I do sigh when I hear some people say that they married partly so they wouldn't be alone in their senior years or they had kids to take care of them when they get old. I don't think they get that neither guarantees you anything. Spouses may divorce, leave or die early. Adult kids may have their own agenda and leave you on your own. My parents have friends who are lucky to get a Christmas visit and Mother's Day card once a year. So, nothing is promised.

Well, I am personally incredible grateful for my 5 children who recently proved what great people they are by tag-teaming care for my daughter who lives in VA. She was SO sick with her 3rd pregnancy and these 4 sibs worked out a care schedule for 6 weeks of solid boots on the ground care....I only got called on for the last 10 days...and she is now 20 weeks along and feeling MUCH better. 2 of m kids flew from the West Coast to the East. Nobody asked us for airfare or anything. They cooked, cleaned, watched her other kids and did EVERYTHING for this sick, sick sister. MY SON was the first out and stayed the longest. He could easily have lost his job over simply telling his boss "family first, fire me if you want".

Did I have kids to take care of me in my old age. Absolutely NOT. But seeing them rally for their sister--well, it was a win for this mama.

BTW, DH and I are baby boomers and have planned meticulously for retirement and eventual NH care. I do NOT want to live with my kids. I NEVER want to burden them.
Our kids were all taught to be frugal, save, get as mush education as possible and also, to give service on a daily basis. Some of that must have stuck. All 5 of them are financially better off than my DH and me. That's what you hope for.

I think that seeing my parent's becoming old and sick in their late 60's terrified me into saving and planning. They figured SS would take care of them--what a sad joke.

Years ago my MIL told me I should have kids so they would take care of me in my old age (guess what she had in mind). I said with my luck my kids wouldn't like me and wouldn't take care of me! No worries.... I never had any, so won't put them through what may happen in my husband's and my lives in the near future with our folks. I hope to go out quickly, like my dad did; someone told me that was a great blessing, and she was right - can only imagine $5-$7k per month, not to mention $20k!

I also grew up in a home where my parents were very fugal and always lived below their means. I had my very first savings account at the age of 5 and every dollar I got for birthdays and holidays went into that account. Vacations were driving trips to see the Grandparents or to go camping. Never kept up with the Jones. And clothes lasted year after year after year, unless I outgrew them. I loved getting my older cousin's hand-me-downs :)

Me think it was easier to save back then.... this was before credit cards were invented. If you wanted to buy something, you either paid cash or wrote a check if you were lucky enough to have a checking account.

I continued that fugal living as I got older. Cut a lot of coupons since the 1970's :) Last new car smell was back in 1978 when I got a VW Rabbit, which I kept for 10 years. Used vehicles ever since. My Jeep is 21 years old, bought it when it was 2 years old, and I still love driving it. My current refrig is Hotpoint, anyone remember that name from decades ago?

Work wise, my company would match dollar for dollar the amount I put into 401(k), so I took the max. Hey, I remember when banks had 12% interest rates on savings accounts, so I took advantage of that.

What hit me like a ton of bricks was when my parents got very elderly and Dad needed caregivers around the clock. Oh good grief, it cost him $20k per month. And Independent Living and Assisted Living were $5-$7k per month. Here I thought I was fugal enough to enjoy a wonderful retirement traveling. Nope, never, nada. I need to save that money for my old age, hopefully I will reach it... [sigh].

Wish the younger generation would listen to us. If not us, then to Clark Howard's show. These kids need to start saving NOW.

My parents were young when I was born, and I doubt they gave any thought to their old age at the time. When you are young you plan to live forever. And I know so many people who thought they would just work until they dropped. But just because you drop doesn’t mean you are dead ... you just can’t work anymore. So now what are you going to do?

Yeah, I got all my legal paperwork done this summer. Will updated, and both health and financial POAs done. And I’ve talked to the person who is my #1 representative re health decisions and told her all of this. And like you, I signed up for every benefit my company offered. And that’s what I tell people who are just starting - you can afford 2% now if you skip the lattes once or twice a week. Forty years from now, you will be thankful you did.

McAlvie - I couldn’t agree more. Not so much about the children part - I would hope people could have children and NOT for any reason remotely related to expectation of caregivers. My one child, now almost 25 is profoundly disabled so no possibility of him taking on that role for his parents - thank goodness. As I do think many older folks don’t go into it - having children with that objective in mind - but something switches over as they age and begin to loose skills and abilities and dementia makes it worse.

I can clearly remember as a child, my mother trying to deal with her own widowed mother, who could no longer live alone safely. Dementia started creeping in - grandma became very difficult and unreasonable- my mother said to me “if I ever get like that - tell me”. I remember it as if it were yesterday. I can even remember where we were at the time though it was 45 years ago.

When the time came and my mother was behaving just as her mother had - I reminded her of what she said. Moms response? “I never said that!”

So as you suggest McAlvie, if there are safeguards one can put in place - in writing and all legally buttoned up - if one really doesn’t want to put their children through it, should the time comes - do something about it! Don’t expect to remember that you once felt this way.

As for the money. I wasn’t a great planner and saver in the beginning of adulthood. Seems just getting through to the end of the month with money left in my wallet was about as far as I could manage. But thanks to employer benefits- things like 401k - I got with the program and I am so thankful that I did.

If there is one piece of financial advice I’d give to the young - it’s take advantage of any employee benefit offered by your employer that allows you to put money away for your Golden Years!

For several years now hubby and I have been looking for a little place on the Oregon Coast. Not to live year round but a vacation home. Nothing fancy but on the beach. Even nothing fancy on the beach means a huge chunk of change.

Now - after seeing what my parents went through and recognizing the fact that having the funds to pay for private caregivers and very nice facilities made all the difference in the world as to the quality of their final years - well, hubby and I have made the painful but wise choice that continuing to rent vacation homes at the beach vs owning is the way to go.

It’s funny. My mother was such a penny-pincher and my dad was frugal as well - but not as bad. I grew up in homemade or hand-me-down cloths. My mom would feed a family of five on two boxes of Kraft Mac and Cheese with a can of tuna thrown in. We drank powdered milk watered down to a thin blue-ish liguid. And back then - I resented the hell out of it. My parents both were teachers - I knew they could spend more.

But now - now that as hellish as it was looking after my parents in their last years - I know it could have been way, way worse. I read about it here, everyday. Now I know how lucky I was - that my parents were so “cheap”. Blue box Mac and cheese with a little tuna doesn’t seem so bad anymore.

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