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Why Trump and Clinton Are Proposing Benefits for Family Caregivers

Sep 19, 2016

Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have proposed new benefits for Americans who take care of elderly relatives—and new data shows how big a pocketbook issue this is for many families.

More than 40% of family caregivers spend $5,000 or more of their own money each year on food, clothing, transportation, medical care and other costs for their aging loved ones, according to a study released Monday by Caring.com.

And the caregivers say their family obligations exact a high cost on the job. Nearly three-quarters of the respondents said that caregiving has had a negative impact on their work, with 60% having had to make changes to their schedule and 31% frequently arriving late or leaving early, according to the Caring.com survey.

Over time, caregiving can take a big bite out of people's earnings and retirement benefits,other research shows. Women lose an average of $142,693 in wages when they leave the workforce early or scale back their hours due to caregiving responsibilities, according to a 2011 report by the MetLife Mature Market Institute. They forfeit an additional $131,351 in Social Security benefits. Men lose an estimated $89,107 in wages and $144,609 in Social Security benefits, according to the MetLife institute.

Read next: Dementia Care: A Daughter’s Sacrifice

Trump would allow people to deduct up to $5,000 a year for the cost of elder care that is needed for a family member to keep working outside the home, according to the campaign’s website. He has also proposed creating a tax-sheltered Dependent Care Savings Account that could be used for elder care as well as child care expenses.

Clinton has proposed expanding Social Security for those “who took significant time out of the paid workforce to take care of their children, aging parents, or ailing family members,” according to her website.

Because the financial stakes of caregiving can be so high, it’s important to approach such commitments with a plan, financial advisers say. One in five Caring.com survey respondents who spent $5,000 or more a year didn’t know their exact outlay.

A senior’s needs can quickly snowball, and it’s understandable that bookkeeping can get lost in the process of establishing a plan for care. That’s all the more reason why adult children should take stock before a crisis, experts say. Determine how much you can afford to chip in without compromising your own retirement security and other goals.

Talk with your parents and make sure expectations align before the need arises. According to a recent Fidelity survey, more than 90% of parents said it would be unacceptable to become financially dependent on their children, while only 30% of children shared that view.

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