By Brett Braithwaite
Despite the myriad of stereotypes about the millennial generation, such as they are “lazy,” “narcissistic” and obsessed with “all things digital,” these younger age groups aren’t given the credit that they deserve.
When it comes to the overall health and wellbeing of baby boomers, it’s come to light that many rely on their millennial and Gen X children, for not only emotional support, but also financial assistance. A new study from GoHealth, ‘Gen X & Millennials Take on the Role of Caregiver,’ found that one in three Gen X’ers and millennials are currently supporting their parents financially and nearly one in three millennials and two in five Gen Xers either manage or help manage their parents’ healthcare.
To better draw attention to how the millennial and Gen X generations are taking ownership of supporting their aging parents, here are key insights from the recent report.
For retirees living on a fixed income, or those planning to retire soon, having a solid financial foundation is important. But things happen, the market may become volatile and some seniors are left turning to family members for financial support. Especially this year, the COVID-19 pandemic derailed retirement plans and threw a wrench into many seniors’ financial futures.
The reality is many of these younger family members will continue to be involved in caregiving and financial assistance for the rest of their parents’ lives. These generations are not just putting in time but investing big money in keeping their parents healthy.
The report found that while one in four millennials have contributed $5-10K of their own money this past year to financially help their parents, one in five Gen X’ers have paid more than $20K. They’re also helping to pay their parents’ health insurance premiums (64% millennials; 58% Gen X), copayments and deductibles (59% millennials; 54% Gen X), and medications (65% millennials; 62% Gen X.)
The financial stressors of supporting aging parents may impact the mental wellbeing for caregivers, with more than four in five (82% millennials; 86% Gen X) worrying about having enough money to support themselves and their parents. What’s more worrisome is the long-term financial impact of caregiving:
- Both generations are likely to take on debt to assist their parent(s) financially (44% millennials; 55% Gen X)
- Two in three say financially assisting their parents either does or will impact the own financial planning (66% millennials; 67% Gen X)
- Two in five millennials (43%) and Gen X’ers (40%) either do not feel or aren’t sure if they will be able to save enough money for retirement in addition to assisting their parents financially
- Most even say they will likely need to delay their own retirement due to the need to financially support their parents (56% millennials; 73% Gen X)
Medicare is complex and confusing. There’s a lot to understand about Medicare options, annual changes, important dates, penalties, coverage and costs. But understanding and accurately enrolling in the right Medicare plan is personal. In fact, two in five Gen X’ers manage or help manage their parents’ healthcare, and half of millennials say that a significant medical event prompted them to begin the healthcare management, such as a heart attack, stroke, or onset of dementia.
The millennials and Gen X’ers aren’t just helping seniors log onto their first telemedicine appointment, they’re spending roughly 11.5 hours a week managing their parent(s) healthcare. Here is a breakdown of how the majority spend their time helping parents with health needs:
- Scheduling their parent’s doctors’ visits (66% millennials; 73% Gen X)
- Attending doctor visits (70% millennials; 75% Gen X)
- Helping parents select a doctor (72% millennials; 75% Gen X)
- Providing transportation to and from doctor visits (75% millennials; 77% Gen X)
These generations are showing up for their parents, but it’s not without its challenges. Many are dealing with their own knowledge gaps around health insurance or health literacy. Over two in five (44% millennials; 44% Gen X) don’t understand their parents’ plan benefits or options or admit to not understanding health insurance in general (44% millennials; 40% Gen X).
When families and their loved ones easily find accessible healthcare resources, they can become empowered to manage health needs with ease. The right system of care, tools and education can help reduce the emotional and financial burden of directing a parent’s health and wellness. To ensure improvement, the healthcare and insurance industries need to provide guidance and support that begins with behavior management and focuses on educating members on prevention, leading to better results, better health outcomes, and better relationships. Afterall, having the right benefits helps protect against unexpected costs and ensures preventative care and support is in place to keep an individual physically and financially healthy. But, knowing which plan option is right for an individual requires expertise and advice. Finding and enrolling in Medicare using a licensed insurance agent is like buying a house using a real estate agent. There’s so many nuanced factors, tasks, and questions that an average homebuyer isn’t aware of, and doing it alone more than likely results in costly mistakes.
Licensed health and life insurance agent at GoHealth, a leading health insurance marketplace and Medicare-focused digital health company. Brett is licensed in 42 states.