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Elder Care Costs Surprise and Stress Military Families

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The sizable cost of elder care often catches many middle-class military families off guard. A fifth of respondents in a recent survey commissioned by First Command Financial Services said they were spending an average of $1,342 a month to care for an elderly family member, and 40% of these said the costs were more than expected.

The costs can add up. A study last year by Fidelity said a couple retiring in 2016 would need some $260,000 to cover health care costs in retirement, up 6% from the year before.

First Command’s financial behaviors index showed that 36% of middle-class military families — including commissioned officers and senior NCOs in pay grades E-5 and above with household incomes of at least $50,000 — were currently or anticipated providing care for an elderly parent or other family member.

Fifty-four percent said the care would take place in their own home, while 42% said it would be provided in the elder’s home.

Eighteen percent of respondents expected to pay for home care services, 8% for nursing home care and 7% for health care services.

The unexpectedly high costs of elder care affected military respondents’ financial attitudes, First Command said.

Thirty-four percent of military families who were currently or anticipated caring for an aged family member said they felt extremely or very financially stretched month to month.

In contrast, only 25% of all military respondents said they felt that way.

The First Command financial behaviors index assesses trends among the American public’s financial behaviors, attitudes and intentions through a monthly survey of approximately 530 U.S. consumers aged 25 to 70 with annual household incomes of at least $50,000.

“Again this year, the results of our annual survey of elder care costs underscore the financial stresses that caring for an older family member can create for our men and women in uniform,” First Command’s chief executive Scott Spiker said in a statement.

“The good news is that almost half of military families who currently provide elder care took steps to prepare for these costs, and 36% say they work with a financial advisor. As more military families find themselves taking on the added responsibility of elder care, we expect to see growing demand for knowledgeable financial planning support.”

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