TORONTO - Retirement planning is taking on a whole new definition as more Canadians wrap up their final years in the workforce while facing the possibility they will also need to help support their aging parents.
It's another strain on imminent retirees, some who've made financial plans without budgeting their parents into the equation since it was once less common for people to live past 85 years.
A poll released this week by The Investors Group, a Winnipeg-based mutual fund and wealth management company, found that 69 per cent of Canadians aged 43 to 63 had at least one parent, or parent-in-law, that's still alive.
Of those surveyed, nearly 40 per cent say they're at least partly supporting their parents financially, to the tune of an average $498 each month, or up to $6,000 per year.
While the results show that the financial strain isn't dire for most Canadians, it's still a factor that advisers say should be on their radar.
"What we're really seeing, perhaps, is boomers are the first generation of retirees looking after retirees," said Jane Olshewski, manager of financial life planning at Investors Group.
"While $6,000 (a year) may be manageable now... how sustainable is it? Is that financial commitment going to increase as parents age and maybe require even more care?"
Olshewski said these are the types of questions Canadians should consider when they're taking a look at their long-term financial savings plan.
Statistics Canada said last year that life expectancy in Canada was 80.4 years, and will likely rise, helped by medications and new technologies.
As a result, many families will need to reconsider whether their parent's savings accounts can continue to support the quality of life they've have become accustomed to.
"I've had family members who are retired, and what I've noticed is that certain lifestyle retirement decisions were impacted by the care they wanted to provide" their parents, she added.
A growing trend has been for elderly people to stay out of nursing homes for a longer portion of their lives, or avoid them entirely, said Susan Eng, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Association of Retired Persons.
"It used to be that parents would get to a certain age and then they would go into a home. That is really no longer the preference, nor the reality," Eng said.
The children can soften some of the impact simply by starting conversations with their parents, said John Nardi. a financial adviser at Edward Jones.
"Aside from having frank discussions with parents, talk to them about... checklists in terms of who the doctors are, and who's the adviser you're dealing with," Nardi said.
Those talks can lead to deeper discussions about their financial state.
Nardi also recommends that his clients consider "self-insuring" their parents, which means creating a joint savings method where both the parents and children contribute a set amount to a separate savings account for later use.
"You want to have that liquid cash available for them down the road," he said.
Those savings contribute to paying for a variety of unexpected expenses, including transportation expenses, home maintenance and full-time health care, like a registered nurse.
Nardi also suggested that in some circumstances the children may need to look at their own jobs, and whether they offer the flexibility to properly care for their personal lives.
"There's other factors that come into play, it's not just financial," he said.
"It's emotional stresses for your parents and for you as the caregiver."
Nardi said the children should ask their employers about the options of taking a sabbatical from work to handle any extreme situations.
On the other hand, Olshewski warned that Canadians don't get too wound up in their parent's financial futures.
"I think everyone should take care of their own financial situations first and foremost," Olshewski said.
"Always take care of yourself and, from there, it's the discussion of assisting others."
The poll did have some more positive findings too - including that more than half of the people surveyed agree that their relationships with their parents have improved because of the newfound responsibilities.