The Financial Side of Being a Caretaker

We’re going to be honest — this is a hard post to write, because the stakes are so high. Are we saying that nobody should be a caretaker? Absolutely not. Everyone on our staff has bee a caretaker at some point, and we know how much work goes into it. So if you’re reading this as a caretaker currently, please don’t think that we’re telling you not to be a caretaker. Please don’t think that we’re telling you that what you do is a waste of time. However, because of the hard work you do, you might honestly let a few things slip — and that’s okay. It’s hard to dig down into the guts of personal finance and still make sure that your loved one is taken care of to the best of your ability. Let’s face it — the idea of “doing it all” is definitely a myth, and that means that you’re going to need to make absolutely sure that you’re sticking to your own priorities here. Something is going to have to give in some way. This might mean that the house isn’t as spotless as you would like, and you might forget things here and there. That doesn’t mean that you’re not a good caretaker. That doesn’t mean that you don’t care about the person that you’re trying to take care of.

Yes, the above statements are grounded in emotion, but there’s nothing wrong with emotion at all — we have to recognize that there are some things in life that are more important than money. Does that mean that money suddenly doesn’t matter? Well, any caretaker would be willing to admit just how much long term care costs. It’s actually a multi-billion dollar industry, and it’s one that isn’t going to go away any time soon. It’s all about making sure that your charge is taken care of to the best of your ability.

So once you have a routine down for your charge, it’s time to give your finances the same routine. When you take the plunge and become a caretaker, you mighty not realize the immediate changes that need to be made. For example, most people aren’t prepared for the drop in income. Sure, money might not matter in the long run, but in the short run you’re going to need to move things around to make absolutely sure that you have enough for the day to day operations of taking care of someone else, plus the expenses that you would have either way. This can be very costly, and it can lead to a lot of strain. Your workplace might not just let you take off for weeks at a time, which means that you might need to switch jobs entirely. That’s a lot to ask for when you have family to take care of. If you’re trying to take care of a loved one when you have family members that also need your attention — like children — the demands on your time are going to be quite high. Instead of giving into the pressure and giving up, you’re just going to have to practice solid time management techniques. This is not a time to “wing it” or just hope that everything falls into place. Victory through decisive action is really going to be the best way to get things done. Indeed, you will owe it to yourself to really step up to the plate and get things done, but how do you even know where to begin?

Well, one of the areas that matter is your savings account. You always want to make sure that you are thinking about your savings before anything else, because that’s what really matters. Having an emergency fund that you can tap when things get rough is always a step in the right direction. Now is the best time to start putting money away — even if you’ve already become a caretaker. Any extra money that comes in needs to go into that liquid account. Yes, it’s tempting to reward yourself by going out and spending money. However, you’re going to have to find different ways to reward yourself than just money. What if you suddenly had to take time away from caring for your family and attend a funeral? Those costs can be expensive, which means that you’re going to need to make sure that you already have them.

Property taxes, insurance premiums, car registrations and other expected items can turn easily into unexpected items if you’re not careful. One of the biggest things that we recommend is that you always focus on the bottom line no matter what comes along — you might feel selfish doing that, but we definitely have a reason to say what we’re saying.

You have to realize something — if you don’t take care of your finances, your finances might have a way of getting away from you. For example, many identity theft criminals tend to target caretakers because they know that most caretakers are so busy holding down the general pieces of life that they don’t really make time for anything else. That’s a tall order to deal with, but it’s easy — credit monitoring services can send the details to your phone or email, which means that you’re not going to have to worry about missing much of anything. You’ll also get a copy of your credit score and your credit report, so that if there are any errors, you can get them corrected right away.

Yes, we’re asking you to think of a lot of things on top of all of your duties as a caretaker. However, a balanced life has to include finance on some level, so we felt it necessary to present a small guide on the financial considerations that go into becoming and remaining a caretaker. Take care of yourselves out there!