The “New” American Family: Implications for Retirement, Finances, and Future Care

What was once considered the “traditional” American family consisting of a married couple with children is no longer the norm. According to the 2010 Census, there is no longer a significant majority (defined as at least one-third) of households that stand out. In fact, married couples with no children make up more than 28% of American households followed by single households (27%) and married with children households (20%). What may this mean for retirement, financial well-being, and future care as the populace ages?

MetLife’s Mature Market Institute conducted a study entitled, “The New American Family: The MetLife Study of Family Structure and Financial Well-being” to explore this question. A national online survey targeted more than 2,500 adults ages 45 to 80 years of age grouped by six family structures – married (first), married (second), domestic partnership, divorced/separated, widowed, and single. The sample was also segmented “with” or “without” children. Participants indicated their degree of concern according to 15 retirement risks developed by the Society of Actuaries in Managing Post-Retirement Risks.

Across family structures, top concerns included retirement security, future health care, and meeting long-term care needs. Of all respondents, 53% were concerned about their ability to cover living expenses and maintain the same standard of living post-retirement. A larger proportion of single, divorced/separated, or widowed respondents held these concerns.

In terms of future health care needs, many respondents were concerned about future health care expenses (45%), the need for long-term care stays (44%), and their ability to remain independent (39%). Compounding the impact on financial security is the reality that over half of respondents indicated they have provided some type of financial assistance to their adult children, and a number of respondents are caregivers to their parents or other family members. Twenty percent of respondents were concerned that their retirement resources may be depleted if they are faced with significant caregiving needs of other family members. The report concludes with a detailed comparison of findings by family structures.

Continuing evolution of the American family structure from what was considered “traditional” has implications at many levels – from national to household levels. Particularly for senior living and long-term care providers, the financial health of future prospective residents may have a significant impact on services and care offerings.

The full report is available for download at

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