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Top fear of the wealthy: Becoming a burden to children

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Like everyone else, wealthy Americans have financial issues. But in the popular imagination, such concerns are unique to the moneyed classes, like how to equitably distribute an estate valued at millions to children and grandchildren.

So it may come as something of a surprise that many of the high net worth worry about being a financial (not to mention emotional) burden on their families should they become too old and frail to care for themselves. This revealing finding is unveiled in a new UBS Investor Watch report, “Unassisted Living.”

The survey reports that more than 4 in 10 wealthy investors (42 percent) flag as their “greatest fear” becoming a burden to their children as they age. The worry outweighs fears of surviving on life support (34 percent) or living in a nursing home (15 percent).

Though wealthy investors prefer not to seek their children’s assistance, the report adds, few have discussed their wishes or developed a plan. Just 39 percent of investors have talked with children about who will care for them in old age. Only half (50 percent) have factored healthcare costs into their financial plan. And only 23 percent have saved for their future care.

Given the burgeoning number of seniors in the U.S., there’s a lot of talking, planning and saving to be done. The U.S. Census Bureau forecasts the population of Americans aged 65 and older will grow to more than 80 million by 2050. The Bureau also pegs the number of seniors likely to require long-term care over the same period at 27 million, more than double the current 12 million.

Ensuring coverage against health issues and long-term care needs ranks among respondents’ top priorities (57 percent say it is important to them), but fewer than half (48 percent) say they are confident they will be able to achieve this goal. About half (49 percent) say they are “highly concerned” about rising healthcare costs, making it one of the more distressing macroeconomic issues for them.

Among the report’s additional findings:

  • 89 percent of wealthy investors would like to stay in their current home in their old age. This compares with 54 percent who would opt for assisted living and 15 percent who consider their child’s home an appealing option.

  • 80 percent of investors want their spouse to care for them. Two-thirds (67 percent) want a home health aide, while only 27 percent want a child to care for them.

  • 74 percent of wealthy investors say their grandparents relied on family for long-term care, and more than half (57 percent) say their parents did the same.

  • 59 percent of respondents believe that caring for aging relatives is more difficult than it had been in the past.

  • 47 percent who currently provide care describe it as a heavy burden, versus 41 percent who describe it as a moderate burden and 12 percent as a minimal burden.

  • 36 percent of wealthy investors say they plan to turn to family for support or care, with most 64 percent) preferring to solicit outside help.