Primary Caregivers Face Financial Advice Gap: Transamerica Center


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Typical primary family caregivers for adults in the United States may think somewhat harder about their finances, on average, than non-primary family caregivers, but they’re less likely to say they have personal financial advisors.

That’s one of the findings analysts at the Transamerica Institute have included in an in-depth new report on the well-being of family caregivers in the United States.


A team at the Los Angeles-based research center based the report on a survey of 3,183 non-professional family caregivers conducted earlier this year. The caregiver sample included people who were providing care for relatives who had difficulty caring for themselves, and parents or other non-professional family caregivers for children who had special needs.

(Related: Microinsurance Body Seeks Proposals)

The analysts’ report covers many topics of interest to long-term care planners, special needs planners and other financial professionals, including the employment situation of the caregivers, the impact of caregiving on the caregivers’ help, and the kinds of information, respite services and other support they would like.


For a section on the caregivers’ own finances, the analysts created a natural experiment by asking the caregivers to classify themselves as primary caregivers or non-primary caregivers.

For many variables, the analysts have provided three sets of numbers: the numbers for the primary caregivers, the numbers for the non-primary caregivers, and the numbers for all caregivers.

The analysts have not presented comparable figures for the general population. Of course, the primary caregivers are more likely to be the spouse of the individual needing care.


About 27% of the caregivers in the sample were the spouse or partner of the care recipient.

Just 2% of the non-primary caregivers were the spouse or partner of the care recipient.

But the primary caregivers appear to be similar, in terms of many demographic variables, to the non-primary caregivers, the side-by-side comparisons may show being a primary caregiver, in and of itself, affects a family caregiver’s finances.

For a look at five insights about primary care givers’ finances, drawn from the Transamerica Center survey data, read on.


Ben Franklin on a fifty (Image: iStock)

(Image: iStock)

1. Primary caregivers may start out with better finances.

The common stereotype about family caregiving is that the primary caregiver is probably a stay-at-home spouse or a stay-at-home eldest daughter.

When Transamerica Center analysts looked at their survey data, they found that 41% of the primary caregivers were working full-time, compared with just 33% of the non-primary caregivers.


Only 39% of the primary caregivers were not employed at all outside the home, compared with 43% of the non-primary caregivers.

The primary caregivers also had a higher median than the non-primary caregivers: The median was about $58,000 for the primary caregivers, versus $56,000 for the non-primary caregivers.

About 29% of the primary caregivers, and just 25% of the non-primary caregivers, reported having total household income of $100,000 or more.

Pensive woman (Photo: Thinkstock)


(Photo: Thinkstock)

2. Primary caregivers are more likely to admit that they thought hard about their finances before they became caregivers.

About 34% of the primary caregivers said they considered their own financial situation “a lot” or “some” when they decided to become a caregiver.

Only 24% of the non-primary caregivers said they thought a lot or some about finances before making the decision about caregiving. 

Broken nest egg (Image: Thinkstock)


(Image: Thinkstock)

3. Primary caregivers are more likely to raid their retirement accounts.

Median monthly caregiving spending is $250 for the primary caregivers, compared with just $50 for the non-primary caregivers.

The percentage of caregivers who said they have taken cash from retirement savings as a result of caregiving costs was 21% for the primary caregivers, compared with 12% for the non-primary caregivers.

Fearful piggy bank (Image: Thinkstock)


(Image: Thinkstock)

4. Primary caregivers are about as likely to be saving for retirement.

Although primary caregivers are more likely to say they have used retirement savings to cover caregiving costs, they’re just as likely to say they’re currently saving for retirement.

The share of survey participants who said they were currently saving for retirement was 39% for both primary caregivers and non-primary caregivers.

The median amount of retirement savings was $71,000 for primary caregivers and $62,000 for non-primary caregivers.


The primary caregivers could have more retirement savings because spouse primary caregivers are older than non-spouse non-primary caregivers.

The analysts did not give the median ages of the caregivers and non-caregivers, but, in the real world, the typical primary caregivers in the Transamerica Center sample were about the same age as the non-primary caregivers.

About 56% of the caregivers in both the primary and non-primary groups were ages 52 or younger.

The percentage of participants ages 71 or older was 8% for the primary caregiver group and 5% for the non-primary group.


Mirror (Photo: Thinkstock)

(Photo: Thinkstock)

5. Primary caregivers are somewhat less likely to have financial advisors.

Although the primary caregivers said they earned more than the non-primary caregivers, had built up more retirement savings, and were more likely to have gone through the complicated process of withdrawing cash from retirement accounts, they were less likely to say they had financial advisors.


Just 63% of the primary caregivers said they had financial advisors, compared with 68% of the non-primary financial advisors.

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