For caregivers, the quarterback on your caregiving team might not be who you expect — a trusted financial planner.
42% of Canadians recently ranked money as the source of their greatest stress.
Heather Haddon (CFP, CHS) is a self-employed certified financial planner who runs Haddon Financial, specializing in working with families and small businesses. She also offers caregivers advice for financial planning from personal experience, having been a caregiver for her own mother.
Heather says that a caregiver financial plan is “only as good as your book ends. If your parents don’t have a solid plan, and your grown children don’t have a plan, they become part of yours!”
Not surprisingly, in a study conducted by the Financial and Consumer Services Commission, 42 per cent of Canadians recently ranked money as the source of their greatest stress. Financial planning is not always about aging parents or your own children; it could also be for your spouse, in-laws, a sibling, niece, or nephew.
Discuss caregiving and financial planning early
Heather advises having practical family conversations early about caregiving and financial planning.
“Start with an informal talk. Say ‘my friend is going through this, and it made me start thinking about what if something happened to you or dad. Do you have a financial plan? How are things going? So if the time comes, we’ll know what’s in place and what we need to put in place,’” suggests Heather adding, “Talking about money seems hard but sometimes it’s just a matter of shifting your perspective. Once you need to help someone bathe, talking about money shouldn't be a big deal.”
See also, our Elizz Caregiving article on developing an advanced care plan.
Caregiving is a team effort
Make sure you include a good financial planner as part of your caregiving team. People typically think of financial planners for investments, not for cash flow or other resources to help ease their stress. However, a professional financial planner will take a holistic look at your family’s entire situation and help you build a solid future.
“Don’t assume you’re in it alone, and don’t assume your financial planner can’t help if it’s not directly money related. The number one answer for ‘why didn’t you do this’ is ‘I can’t afford it,’” says Heather. “Well, maybe you can.”
More than just financial advice
“If you need support beyond home care hours we can help you with our network of resources, and negotiate to get what you need,” Heather explains. Your financial planner “can help you with so many things, from finding support that fits your budget right down to a high school volunteer who can help with home maintenance. It becomes a tap on the family to ask for all of those things.”
For example, living benefits are becoming just as important in financial plans as life insurance. Multiple sclerosis, stroke, heart attack, and cancer are the four big illnesses Canadians are currently facing.
“More people are going to get sick and require care (and have bigger expenses that impact your family) than if somebody dies. In Canada, what we pay for versus the actual cost is a fraction of what other countries pay. But it’s still enough to cripple a family,” adds Heather.
Long-term care insurance is ‘living insurance’. If you buy it at a young enough age, you can pay for your care down the road.
Again, it’s important to recognize potential expenses if your parents’ needs change, or if you’re worried about finances should something happen to you. And it has a death benefit if you don’t use it, so your family will either use it or get it back. Long-term care insurance is available through anyone who sells life insurance.
A comprehensive financial plan for caregivers is something your financial planner can also structure so you have less taxable income, which in turn will help you qualify for more government benefits.
“The key is really not to be afraid to ask for help, and don’t be embarrassed by what you need,” stresses Heather. “Financial planners can help get your family what you need. There’s no shame in that when you’re supporting somebody you love.”
Heather’s advice for caregivers
Heather offers the following financial planning advice for caregivers:
- Ask for help - and it might not be the help you think you need.
A long term illness is hard on more than just the patient - it challenges marriages and sibling relationships too. Often, the eldest daughter in the family is taking that on. We need to remove the stigma of what it means to ask for help.
“Remember that a financial planner can be your quarterback to help put home care, transportation, medications, etc. in place, and help manage the rest.”
- Have another impartial set of ears to help you understand things.
“You want someone who isn't emotional to be there when someone from home care comes to talk to you and your mother.”
Your financial planner can be there for meetings to arrange care, or to look at a long-term care facility. While banks will not do this, comprehensive financial planners are there for the health of the family — and everything comes back to money.
- Keep track of everything.
“Track time that you take off work, keep parking receipts, anything that costs you to take care of that person. Those all become tax deductions, either for you or person you're taking care of.”
If you don’t know whether you should keep it, keep it. Have an envelope in your car for all of your receipts. Your financial planner will go through it with you, and determine whether to throw it out.
To find out more about financial planning, the Financial Planning Standards Council’s guide on how to Find a Planner or Certificant can help put you in touch with a certified financial planner in your area.