Industry Voices

The Role of Families in Lifetime Financial Security

Some who step up to help family members when needed will have adequate resources, creating no impact on their retirement security, but for some others, family help may drain their resources and leave them in a worse or difficult situation for retirement.

By PS | April 13, 2017
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For many Americans, the extended family plays the role of sharing risk, supplementing savings and formal risk management. For other Americans, there are few or no family members available to help.

Family is an important part of our personal financial planning and financial wellness plan.

Key questions include:

  • What do retirees expect from their family in retirement, and vice versa?
  • What level of support do retired family members expect to give loved ones, and vice versa?
  • How do you prepare retirees and their loved ones for financial shocks during retirement?

Existing research leaves us valuable information, but also unanswered questions, so there is a need for further research. Here’s what we know:

What seniors want and expect  

In 2015, the Society of Actuaries (SOA) conducted focus groups[1] with retirees who had been retired 15 years or more.  Most retirees said they did not want to rely on their children for support but others saw children as possible support and a resource to fall back on. However, a major topic of the focus groups was shocks and unexpected expenses, including children needing financial help. Other studies indicate seniors are providing more financial help to children.

Families also play important roles in caregiving, but the cost to the caregiver may be overlooked.  One study estimated that the individual who provides caregiving for aging parents loses a lifetime average of more than $300,000 in wages, retirement benefits and Social Security benefits.[2] 

What Americans say about family and retirement  

The New American Family study[3], sponsored by the MetLife Mature Market Institute in partnership with the Society of Actuaries, documented the sense of responsibility Americans feel for aiding family members who need help.  This study surveyed adults ages 45 to 80 and focused on understanding whether there were differences by family type.  It found that half of the respondents with adult children have provided them with financial assistance, and one-fourth of respondents expect children to help retired parents in need.

[1] Post-Retirement Experiences of People Retired 15 Years or More, Society of Actuaries, 2016,

[2] Timmerman, Sandra and Anna M. Rappaport, Often Overlooked Issues in Retirement Planning – How Family Caregiving and Living Arrangements Relate to Long Term Care.  Retirement Management Journal, Summer 2016, Vol. 6, No. 1, published by the Retire Income Industry Association

[3] The MetLife Study of Family Structure and Financial Well Being, 2012,