Disability Planning

Stepping Up And Stepping In

Building financial well-being for today’s caregivers

by Larry Hazzard

Mr. Hazzard is Head of Individual Disability at Guardian. Visit www.guardianlife.com.

It’s no secret that the need for caregivers in the United States is dramatically increasing. As this need grows, however, there is a chronic shortage of professional caregivers to fill the gap. Further, even when professional services are available, cost can be prohibitive.

Whether stemming from this need, a sense of personal responsibility, or something else, more and more “ordinary” Americans—non-professional caregivers, in other words—are providing care for loved ones. In fact, a recent study by Guardian found that close to a quarter of full-time employed Americans are now pulling double duty—splitting their time between maintaining a full-time job and caring for others.

While more Americans take on care responsibilities, caregivers are also having to spend more time providing that care. In fact, the same Guardian study found that the amount of time caregivers are spending on care has increased three-fold, up from an average of 9 hours a week in 2020 to 26 hours in 2023.

The subsequent effects on caregivers are clear—they’re stressed and vulnerable. But, the implications for financial professionals are equally profound: more of their clients than they might anticipate are likely serving as caregivers, and in turn face new financial exposures and consequences.

In light of these new financial risks, here’s how financial professionals can support their caregiver clients as they take on new or increasing caregiving responsibilities.

The Connection Between Mind, Body, and Wallet™

When looking at the well-being of all full-time employed Americans, Guardian found that caregivers have the lowest total well-being scores across mental health, physical health, and financial wellness.

The study found, for example, that 77% of caregivers self-report having poor mental health, with 40% saying that their caregiving responsibilities negatively impact their stress levels. Many don’t fare much better when it comes to physical health, with just one-in-four saying that they have good physical health. In regards to personal finance, close to half of caregivers said that caregiving has negatively impacted their own financial security, with one potential driver being that caregivers are two-times more likely to be laid off than non-caregivers.

While each of these data points are concerning in and of itself, they are all interconnected. Specifically, a different Guardian study found that financial well-being (or, a lack thereof) plays an outsized role in influencing mind, body, and overall well-being. For financial professionals, this presents a unique opportunity: by taking the time to speak with caregiver clients about their evolving financial needs, they can not only help improve clients’ financial well-being, but play a role in supporting their total wellness.

Helping Caregivers Care For Themselves

To underscore how the needs of caregiver clients are constantly changing, consider how most full-time working clients traditionally access foundational financial and long-term planning benefits: their employers.

Many are forced to leave the workforce or go part-time to be available for their loved ones. In turn, this means that traditional employer-sponsored benefits that might have provided some support are either no longer accessible or available...

For caregiver clients, however, this is often no longer possible—many are forced to leave the workforce or go part-time to be available for their loved ones. In turn, this means that traditional employer-sponsored benefits that might have provided some support are either no longer accessible or available. In many cases, even those clients that do continue to have access to such employer-sponsored benefits might still need additional protection.

As financial professionals know, there are a variety of individual solutions that can help fill this need for caregivers. Yet, when talking to caregiver clients and on top of their caregiving responsibilities, this can be an overwhelming amount of information. Here are a few ways to help guide these important conversations:

  • Connect The Dots For Clients

While it might seem straightforward to financial professional, focusing on how each product can directly support caregiving responsibilities can help caregiver clients avoid “analysis paralysis.”

For example, when discussing life insurance—no matter the type—consider sharing the fact that fewer caregivers own life insurance than non-caregivers. Why does this matter to caregiver clients? If the unexpected were to happen, caregiver clients risk having inadequate financial protection which can lead to a discontinuation of care for those they are caring for.

It’s a similar situation with disability insurance, especially considering that caregivers are two times more likely to experience their own disability-related workplace absence than non-caregivers. If a caregiver client can’t work—or can only do so in a reduced capacity—the income protection offered through disability insurance can ensure continuity of care for loved ones.

  • Allow Space For Clients To Prioritize Themselves… If Just For A Few Minutes

Another tool available to financial professionals when speaking with caregiver clients is to help them reflect on their caregiving experience and apply those lessons learned to their own long-term care wishes. With this in mind, financial professionals can help clients assess what type of products—from a stand-alone long-term care insurance policy to an accelerated death benefit rider on a life insurance policy—can help ensure they are protected when the time comes.

  • Make It Easy

In exploring with caregiver clients, it’s important for financial professionals to remember one thing: caregivers don’t have the luxury of time. As such, while a financial professional might do an excellent job talking through various policy nuances and the important protection provided by various products, caregivers might only hear: “you are going to have to spend a lot of time and money to apply and purchase.”

With this in mind, it is important that financial professionals explore bundled or all-in-one options with clients. Such products provide various protections in a single solution and through a single application process. For many caregiving clients, short-term considerations like ease of purchase can be what tips the scale to purchasing long-term protection.

Exponential Impact

As the saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup—and caregivers can’t provide care to others when they aren’t taking care of themselves. For financial professionals with caregiver clients, taking the time to help them think about their evolving financial needs is one of the best ways to support client well-being, in turn enabling clients to better care for others.