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Do your parents have enough saved for retirement?

As the adult child of elderly parents, you may have wondered whether their meager savings will be enough to cover their needs for their lifetimes or if you will need to offer them financial assistance.

Certainly, you don't want your mom or dad living as paupers, skipping meals or medication to have enough to cover the utilities each month. But you and your family also have your share of expenses, and soon the kids will be in college. What can you do when your parents' nest egg runs out?

A common problem

If it's any consolation whatsoever, you're not alone in this dilemma. Statistics from the federal Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that nearly 30 percent of those Americans who are about to retire lack both defined benefits plans and retirement savings. According to a report by USA Today, "The median account balance for Americans nearing retirement sits at a paltry $12,000."

Let that sink in. It's frightening. But there may still be a way to salvage the situation.

Helping parents manage financially

Don't go it alone. Now more than ever, your parents need sound financial guidance from estate-planning professionals who can assess and evaluate their situation.

Help your mom and dad assemble their financial portfolio to review with their estate planner. Make sure that they draft basic estate-planning documents like wills, and medical and legal powers of attorney.

What is their debt-savings ratio? Are they maxed out on credit? Is the family home underwater with a second or third mortgage?

What about insurance? If one parent predeceases the other, is the surviving spouse going to be all right financially or on the precipice of poverty?

How you can help

Not all assistance has to necessarily be financial. Maybe your mom and dad are eating out so frequently because your mother can no longer manage to cook three meals a day. Consider ordering a meal service for them, bringing them meals from your own kitchen or inviting them over for dinner a few nights a week.

You may be able to trim the fat from your parents' budget by volunteering to take on some tasks that they now pay others to do, e.g., cleaning the house, doing yard work, shoveling snow in the winter. Ask which ways they would most appreciate help.

Maintain financial boundaries

Accept that you can only do so much. At the end of the day, you still must meet your own financial needs and those of your family members. You still have to be able to save for your own retirement years. Be realistic about the commitments that you can take on for your parents.

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