A combination of advances in medical science, longer life spans, people marrying later, second marriages, and other factors mean that many Americans have children later in life than was the norm just a generation ago. In 2000, more than 23% of first-time moms were 20 years old or younger. By 2014, a significant shift was underway: More than 30% of first-time moms were 30 or older, and more than 9% were 35 and up.
Of course, “35 and up” covers a lot of ground, and this study only accounts for first children. It’s increasingly common for women to bear children well into their forties, and their male partners may be even older. In many ways, these older parents offer children significant benefits. They may be better established financially, and thus better able to provide material benefits. Greater maturity and experience may also mean increased patience and ability to provide effective emotional support and guidance. There are even indications that children of older parents realize educational benefits.
However, starting your family older can also present challenges, some of which require special consideration as you engage in financial planning and estate planning. For example, those who have children in their 40s and beyond may find themselves facing college tuition and retirement at the same time. And, there is a more significant possibility that one or both parents will pass away or require long-term care while the children are still dependent.
Special Considerations for Older Parents
Revisiting Estate Plans
If you’re already well-established when you have children, chances are that you’ve already made provisions for passing your assets on your death, created advance healthcare directives, and otherwise prepared for the unexpected. Review your estate plan to ensure that your children are provided for, and that general provisions still reflect your needs and preferences.
Planning for Children at Different Life Stages
If you started having children later in life, or if your children span a significant age range, consider the possibility that they may be at very different places in their lives when you pass away or become incapacitated. For example, your oldest child may be married and employed, while your youngest may still be in middle school. Creating a living trust that makes specific provision for your dependents based on the circumstances of their lives is one way to ensure that your kids are protected no matter how old they are. However, it’s not the only option. An experienced estate lawyer can help you determine the approach that best protects your family.
Balancing Retirement Plans with College Funds
If you’ve been planning for your retirement since you started working in your early twenties, the tension between retirement planning and college planning may not present a problem. However, many people delay saving for retirement, or don’t make adequate contributions in their early years of employment. The average American in his or her early 40s has just $67,000 in retirement savings. If you’re behind the retirement savings curve, consider working with a financial advisor to prioritize your contributions and balance these competing needs.
Nominating a Guardian
All parents of minor children should nominate a guardian to care for the children in the event that they become unable. For most people, these provisions are simply a safety net, and are never needed. That’s true for older parents, as well. But, death and disability do become more common as we age, which means that safety net becomes increasingly important.
Collecting Social Security
The best time to begin collecting Social Security benefits varies depending on a number of factors. Many people find themselves crunching numbers, trying to determine whether it’s best to take benefits as soon as they are eligible, or to delay and receive a slightly larger monthly payout. With minor children in the mix, the equation may change—kids are entitled to benefits when a parent is collecting Social Security. The added monthly benefit for the child or children may tip the scales on the calculation.
An Experienced Estate Planning Attorney Can Help
You may not know all of the questions to ask, or every measure you should take to protect your family. When you work with an experienced estate planning lawyer, you don’t need to. We’ll guide you through the process, asking questions, learning what’s important to you, and assessing the best possible approach for you and your family.
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