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Help to family rivals retirement for many boomers

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Half of pre-retirees ages 50 and older say they would make major sacrifices that could impact their retirement to help family members, according to new research.

Merrill Lynch Wealth Management discloses this finding in a new survey, “Family & Retirement: The Elephant in the Room.” Conducted in partnership with Age Wave, the survey polled 5,415 individuals ages 25 and older, including 2,104 respondents among the boomer (ages 47-67) and silent generations (ages 68-88).

The survey reveals that six in 10 pre-retirees would retire later or work longer to financially support family members. An additional 40 percent would return to work after retirement, while 36 percent would adopt a less comfortable lifestyle in retirement and 20 percent would feel less financially secure.

The survey notes that 62 percent of adults age 50 or older are providing financial support to family members. In the last five years, the largest share supported adult children (68 percent), followed by grandchildren (26 percent), parents/in-laws (16 percent), siblings (13 percent) and other relatives (14 percent).

“But those providing support to family members are often not accounting for it in their retirement planning, nor are they talking with family members about it, which can pose a hidden risk,” the report states. “The amount of support provided by people age 50-plus to family can be thousands of dollars a year, and averages $14,900 among people with less than $5 million in investable assets.”

The report observes that members of stepfamilies have unique challenges when meeting family financial needs. Adults ages 50-plus generally feel some financial responsibility for stepfamily members. Among them:

  • Step-parents: 31 percent (vs. 83 percent for biological parents);
  • Adult step-children: 62 percent (vs. 81 percent for adult biological children); and
  • 18 percent for step-siblings (vs. 51 percent for biological siblings).

Among boomers, the survey adds, 38 percent identify running out of money to live comfortably as their greatest concern about living a long life. Additional concerns include: “ending up in a nursing home” (21 percent), “being lonely” (10 percent) and “being a burden on my family” (24 percent).


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