Are you one of the one in seven adults in the U.S. helping take care of an aging parent?
Even if your parents are retired and not as active as they once were, there are still plenty of reasons to keep a close eye on their financial well-being, from monitoring credit to managing retirement account distributions.
Don't know where to begin? We've put together a checklist to help you better understand how you can help your parents with their finances as they age.
Keep an eye on their retirement savings
After retirement, your parents will be responsible for managing their retirement savings. Make sure they are keeping expenses in line with their plan so they can afford to do the things they are passionate about.
Monitor credit reports and beware of identity theft and fraud
Everyone is entitled to a free credit report each year from each of the three reporting agencies. Go to AnnualCreditReport.com to request reports. Make sure each agency has accurate information; there may be differences from one agency to another.
Be prepared for required minimum distributions (RMD) at 72
The IRS requires a minimum distribution from employer-sponsored retirement plans such as 401(k), 403(b), 457(b) and IRAs. Mandatory distribution involves tax implications and decisions regarding which assets to designate. Work with an accountant and financial advisor to learn the rules that apply to your parent's specific situation.
Consider delaying Social Security distributions for as long as possible
When should your parents apply for Social Security? Taking early withdrawals at age 62 could decrease the benefit amount by as much as 25 percent. For this reason, financial experts often recommend postponing benefits if at all possible. That said, each situation is different and deserves careful evaluation. Don't expect the Social Security Administration to be an advocate for your parents. Seek the counsel of a knowledgeable advisor.
Keep an emergency fund current
Your parents should continue to maintain a healthy balance in a savings account emergency fund to offset unexpected expenses. This may allow them to avoid tapping into the less liquid investments held in retirement accounts.
Stay in close contact with a financial advisor and accountant
Work closely with a financial professional to maintain a comfortable balance of investment risk. Now's the time to get savvy about the rules and tax implications associated with withdrawals in retirement. Before your parents consider taking retirement fund distributions, they should consult with an accountant or financial advisor.
Discuss their living situation
Do your parents own a home that they plan to stay in for the long term? If so, make sure they consider any remaining mortgage payments as well as the costs that come with maintaining a home. They may want to consider other options, such as moving to a less expensive area or downsizing to a smaller home or senior living community. Also keep in mind that even if your parents are active and healthy now, they may need a home that can accommodate changing physical needs as they get older. Now's the time to start thinking about other options such as assisted living or long-term care facilities.
Assess the most advantageous tax deduction strategy
When your parents pay off their mortgage, they may significantly reduce their itemized expenses. Taxpayers 65 and older have a higher standard deduction. Using the standard deduction may be more beneficial than itemizing deductions. An accountant will know the rules about what deductions apply.
Consult with an estate planner and/or eldercare attorney
Many financial professionals specialize in estate planning and ways to protect the value of your parents' estate and minimize the tax burden of those who may inherit from the estate. If your parents haven't already planned for the distribution of their assets, this may be a good time to do so. An attorney can help them protect the rights of a surviving spouse; deal with Medicare issues; draft trusts and wills; and prepare other needed legal documents.
Create a master information document
Although it has no legal effect, a master document can be an important tool for the person responsible for cleaning up an estate after someone passes away. It's basically a document that explains what and where all the assets and debts are and how to handle accounts, including information on what needs to be done to close them out and get the assets to the people who should have them.
Interested in learning more? Get information about caring for aging parents and facing other financial realities of life.