There are two things in life you will never escape: taxes and death. The same, sadly, is true for the family members you love and cherish. As your parents get older potentially awkward scenarios begin to come forth: which kid or kids will move closer to help out, have Mom and Dad prepared for their declining health, what if I have to move… and so on.
I’ve documented how my wife and I picked up our lives in Birmingham and moved “back home” to Knoxville, Tennessee on No Debt Plan. We’re not originally from Knoxville, but it is the closest large city to both of our families. We moved at the very end of last year.
Our move was intentional and not a spur of the moment decision. We wanted to be closer to our families for a multitude of reasons. One of those was that we’re pretty much the only kids on either side of the family that can move to help out our parents as they get older. It isn’t a fun thought, but it definitely was part of our thought process as we made tough decisions on our future.
Moving to take care of aging parents is different than moving for an exciting new job opportunity. When you accept a new job you’re expecting to move. You wouldn’t have interviewed for something new in a different city otherwise. You know a move is coming, and often you receive a relocation package to assist in the process. When you move to take care of family it can be either planned or a sudden need related to illness or an accident. We can easily find ourselves living hundreds of miles apart when something tragic happens.
The worst case scenario is when an illness strikes and there’s no one else that can help. A spouse will leave their own family and children behind to move back home to take care of the family member until everyone can move to the new city. This causes not only a lot of emotional stress on the family, but it can be a financial disaster. When something like this happens it is a surprise, and surprises usually aren’t good things when it comes to your finances.
To avoid all that mess take the following steps to make this transition a bit smoother.
5 Steps to Moving to Care for Family
1. Have tough conversations.
This is the worst part. You must sit down with your aging parents and have a tough conversation about the future. Aging, a loss of mobility, a need for assistance, and death are all pretty much guaranteed to happen. How you and your family prepare for those instances now will make that time easier for everyone involved.
But it won’t be fun.
2. Prepare financially.
Once you’ve talked with your parents it is time to put a plan into place. If you and your family are going to be the ones to move back home to help out you need to start preparing now. Build up an extensive cash reserve to cover various potential living situations: one spouse stays behind and tries to sell the house on one income while the other spouse moves home with no income, both spouses move without jobs to a new home back home, and you both stay put until jobs are secured. Take things into consideration like having to sell your home at a loss and the financial aspect of moving all of your belongings to a new city and state.
3. Prepare to move.
You’re not moving just yet, but it is never too early to prepare for that day.
- Got extra stuff? Sell or donate it. This will speed up the process if you have to move in a hurry with the added benefit of decluttering your house and pocketing some cash or tax benefit.
- Secure boxes. It usually doesn’t take a lot of time to do this, but it never hurts to have a stockpile up in the attic so you don’t have to search for them while in an emotionally fragile state.
- Back away. If moving is closer on the horizon you might consider backing away from outside obligations. Step down as the President of the PTA. Hand over the reigns as lead volunteer at church. You’re not looking to completely disengage from your current life, but you need to be able to leave at a moment’s notice. In the long run backing away will be better for your favorite organizations because they’ll have time to find an adequate replacement for you.
4. Look for work.
The best time to move to care for an ailing parent is when you’ve got steady employment lined up near them. Anything you can do to limit the financial impact of this emotional situation the better. You might also need to accept that you could take less money to get back closer to family. Don’t be stuck on finding your current salary if it isn’t realistic to find that salary in the place you’ll be moving to.
5. Move at the right time.
If you’ve prepared you’ll be able to move when the time comes. Whether that means dropping everything and living off a large emergency fund until you can find new work or selling your house now so you can get a short term lease… you’ll be ready for your own personal situation.
Moving for us has been a great thing. We’ve already seen both sets of parents within two months of moving. In the past it would take a good bit of planning to get them down to our home in Birmingham thanks to the six hour drive (plus a time change). There are a lot of perks in being closer to family aside from being able to help them out as they get older. They can help us out if we’re blessed with kids, and our potential future children will be able to spend more quality time with them. There’s a lot of positives for it despite the emotional roller coaster it puts you on.
I’d love to hear stories from you on moving to take care of a loved one. How did you pull it off? Did you just up and leave your old life, or did you plan for it? Leave a comment and let’s get talking.