Retirement & Financial Planning Report

About one in 10 Americans are caring for a spouse or parent at any one time, and for most there is a negative impact on their career, their retirement preparedness or both, according to a GAO study.

“As Americans age, family caregivers, such as adult children and spouses, play a critical role in supporting the needs of this population. However, those who provide eldercare may risk their own long-term financial security if they reduce their workforce participation or pay for caregiving expenses,” a report said.

It said working persons who are providing such care commonly experience job impacts such as getting to work late, leaving early or taking time off during the day. Fifty-six percent experienced such impacts, while 17 percent cut back from full-time to part-time work, 16 percent took a leave of absence, and single-digit percentages experienced impacts such as getting a warning about attendance or performance at work, giving up work entirely, retiring earlier than planned, passing up an offer of promotion, or losing their job.

Often the result is that they begin drawing Social Security or other retirement benefits earlier than had been expected and accepting reductions in those benefits it said.

Most parental and spousal caregivers provided care for several years, and certain groups were more likely to provide daily care, including women and minorities, it said, adding that they need to understand “how decisions to provide care, leave the workforce, or reduce hours could affect long-term financial security.”

It noted that caregivers further commonly experience new out of pocket costs related to caregiving such as travel and medical expenses, an average of $7,000 per year—which some fund by drawing money out of their retirement savings, further eroding their own financial security.