Karen Tang, CFP®: Certified Financial Planner in Singapore

Ladies, Protect Yourself First Before Caring For Your Loved Ones

I was recently interviewed by the Chinese newspaper Lian He Zao Bao, for an article on women and caregiving that was published on Sunday, 10 April 2022.

The translated title reads “Ladies, Protect Yourself First Before Caring For Your Loved Ones”.

Here, I’m sharing with you the interview questions and my response.

Hi Karen, thank you for agreeing to share your thoughts with Zaobao.

1. I think many people do not really understand what caregiving risk is, could you please elaborate?

The risk of caregiving is multifold. To start off, there is an immense toll on the caregiver’s physical, emotional and mental well-being. This in turn greatly reduces the caregiver’s ability to perform in their regular job.

Besides this, the caregiver has to spend a good amount of time and money on the loved one.

Caregiving can range from a few months taking care of an older loved one (like our parents) during their final days, to decades looking after a child who is disabled mentally and/or physically from birth. There is a very high probability of us needing to become a caregiver at some point in our lives.

Given the above 5 costs of caregiving – mental, physical, emotional, time, money – all of us who have dependents should plan well ahead of time for such an eventuality.

Each of the above costs can vary significantly from case-to-case, person-to-person. As the saying goes – “we have to hope for the best, but prepare for the worst”.

2.Also, I am wondering if you can share one or two stories of your clients who are caregivers(female), and what were their main concerns when they approached you?

I knew a lady, Anne (name changed for privacy) age 35. She went through a rough couple of years before I met her. She was doing well in her profession and had just got a promotion. That meant longer hours at work. But then, her father suddenly passed away. The shock and grief set her mother’s health back significantly. After just 2 months, the mother suffered a stroke and was paralysed.

Because of these personal calamities, Anne had to ask her employer if she could work part-time, even though she knew her role required much more of her. In due course though, Anne decided to prioritise her family and took a sabbatical from work. It helped that Anne was still single rather than with a family of her own that she would be duty-bound to.

Anne has an older brother who is married with two kids. Hence, the responsibility of caregiving naturally fell on her. Her brother would provide some financial support. Anne also had to dig into her savings.

When Anne approached me a few months into caregiving, she had an immense perspective of what could happen in life. She was concerned about making sure that various possible future scenarios were planned for. These included:

  • Needing a caregiver for herself
  • Sufficient cash flow in her retirement years
  • Sources of income in case she gets disabled
  • Money for medical treatments and care if and when ailments arise

I took stock of her entire financial situation and started to analyse what were the most urgent actions that needed to be taken to fill critical gaps in her portfolio.

3.Other than transferring risk to insurers, what other advice would you give them to achieve financial freedom? Perhaps you can also discuss why do caregivers need to plan differently?

When I think about this question, one can divide clients into two segments – those who are not yet caregivers, and those who already are caregivers.

My core advice to everyone is always the same – first protect your wealth, and then look at ways to grow it.

When we talk of wealth protection, there are many ways one can reduce or transfer the risk. Insurance is one of the best ways to do it for “pennies on the dollar”. Besides this, some clients prefer to either retain the risk i.e. bear the burden of future costs (contingent liabilities) or try their best to reduce the risk by changing their habits, activities and decisions.

Planning for each caregiver is unique. There is no one-size-fits-all. Even though my core advice still applies, implementing it usually requires making trade-offs. This is because we plan to meet as many of the client’s goals and preferences as possible, keeping in mind:

  • their budget
  • the needs of their dependents
  • projections for the future

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