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The cost of moving closer to aging parents

What should millennials consider before making the move?

The oldest members of the millennial generation are entering their early forties, which means that many of us have started to rethink our priorities and rebalance our responsibilities. We’re raising families, buying homes, building our careers and — in many cases — thinking seriously about whether we should be in closer contact with our parents, if we are fortunate enough that that remains an option.

Some of us, especially those with young children, may be interested in moving closer to aging parents in order to give our kids the opportunity to bond with their grandparents — and, of course, to give the grandparents the opportunity to provide free childcare! Others, especially those of us with an elderly parent, may be asking ourselves whether it’s time for us to provide the care.

Many millennials will find themselves caught in the middle; members of the sandwich generation, which has less to do with when you were born and more to do with where you are in your life. If you are caring for your children and an aging parent simultaneously, you’re sandwiched — and one way to solve the sandwich problem is to bring the two pieces of bread a little closer together.

This often means that either you or your parents will need to reassess living options — but before you start packing up the moving vans, it’s worth asking yourself how the costs of living closer to parents might balance up against the benefits.

In this article:

The cost of moving to be closer to your parents

In some cases, relocating to be closer to a family member can save you a lot of money. If your employer allows you to work remotely and your parents live in an area that has a lower cost of living, you could earn the same salary while reducing your expenses.

“If you already work from home, this might be a non-issue,” explains Heidi McBain, a licensed marriage and family therapist who specializes in mental wellness for moms and moms-to-be. That said, it’s a good idea to know what kinds of career opportunities will be available in your new location — and what those opportunities might pay. “If you’d need to find another job after you move, what does the job market look like there? Are you ready for a career change?”

McBain also suggests doing the math on exactly how much it will cost to relocate — because even if you think you’ll save money in the long term, you may still have to put up a lot of cash just to make the move. “Explore cost of living differences between where you live and where your parents live, including selling your current home and buying a new one, not having to pay for childcare or paying for only part-time care, etc.”

The cost of childcare could turn out to be the biggest financial factor in your decision-making, especially if you are able to forgo expensive daycare for free grandparent care. Keep in mind that you are likely to be called upon to provide free caregiving services of your own — first to feed the cat or water the plants while your parents take their annual cruise, then to help your parents manage their finances as they begin downshifting and preparing their estate for the next phase of their lives. Eventually, you may become the primary caregiver for your entire family — parents and children both.

“Explore cost of living differences between where you live and where your parents live, including selling your current home and buying a new one, not having to pay for childcare or paying for only part-time care, etc.”

—Heidi McBain, licensed marriage and family therapist

The cost of moving your parents closer to you

In some cases, you may not want to move back to your childhood hometown — but your parents may want to relocate to be closer to you.

“For some families this is seen as a huge help, while for others it can be seen as intrusive,” says McBain. You may be in a situation where your parents are able to set up their own home that is just far enough away from yours to allow you to maintain separate lives; you may also be in a situation where your parents may want — or need — to move into your home, creating a multigenerational household.

Both of these scenarios may bring you and your family closer together while allowing you to save on the costs of relocation, but you are likely to pick up additional caregiving and social costs as you help your parents acclimate to their daily living and new home. “Often, if parents move to a new area to be closer to their kids to help out, they are also relying on their kids socially as well,” McBain told us. “This can feel smothering to adult children until their parents have a social support system of their own. This situation may also call for hard conversations ahead of time, and clear boundaries once parents are living in close proximity to their family.”

The cost of expectations vs. reality

On the subject of difficult conversations to have with your parents — the biggest hidden cost, in all of this, might be the cost of expectations vs. reality.

“Have the hard conversations with family members around a potential move on the front end, so you’re not dealing with relocating and all the stress that goes along with it, as well as grief around your expectations and reality not matching up,” McBain advises.

What kind of conversations will you need to have? It depends. If your parents are currently healthy, socially active and financially stable, all you may need to do right now is discuss how often you’d like to visit each other. Some families may be happy with a weekly dinner, while others may assume that they’ll be able to drop in at any time.

You’ll also need to have the childcare conversation. “You may expect your parents to be helping out every day with your kids, while they may have a very active social life,” says McBain. “Or they may expect to be helping out everyday, but you have concerns about their health and if this is actually doable.”

This brings us to the most important — and ultimately most difficult — conversation: What might happen if one or both of your parents’ health declines. If you are married or partnered and have a child, you should also ask what might happen if your partner’s parents become ill or need full-time personal care. Will one of you temporarily relocate to be closer to them, or is it possible to bring all of your loved ones into the same geographical radius? Is an assisted living facility an option?

These questions are not easy to answer — which is why we’re not going to try to answer them for you. All we can do is give you the tools to get the conversations started, and to decide whether the cost of living closer to parents will ultimately be outweighed by the benefits of having the people you love nearby — in both the best and the worst-case scenarios.

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About Nicole Dieker

Nicole Dieker has been a full-time freelance writer since 2012, with a focus on personal finance and habit formation. In addition to Haven Life, her work regularly appears at Lifehacker, Bankrate, CreditCards.com, and Vox. Dieker spent five years as a writer and editor for The Billfold, a personal finance blog where people had honest conversations about money, and is the author of Frugal and the Beast: And Other Financial Fairy Tales.

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Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.

Haven Life is not authorized to give tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to seed advice from their own tax or legal counsel.

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