A couple sitting on a bench in a park.

Annual retirement survey: Caregivers less likely to save. Support for this critical role. – Herb Weiss

EBRI Survey Says Unpaid Caregivers Less Likely to Save for Retirement

By Herb Weiss, contributing writer on aging issues

According to the 33rd annual Retirement Confidence Survey (RCS) released last week, caregivers are more likely to have lower levels of assets and more likely to have problems with debt than non-caregivers. Because of this they are also less likely to have saved for retirement, and are more likely to retire earlier than planned for reasons out of their control, which can reduce the lifestyle of caregivers in retirement.

According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), a nonpartisan organization researching health, personal finance and economic security issues, the RCS is the longest-running survey of its kind that measures worker and retiree confidence. The survey is conducted jointly by EBRI and Greenwald Research, a firm specializing in retirement, employee benefits and health care research.

The online survey of 2,537 Americans was conducted from Jan. 5 through Feb. 2, 2023. All respondents were ages 25 or older. The survey included 1,320 workers and 1,217 retirees, and this year included an oversample of roughly 944 completed surveys among caregivers (598 workers and 346 retirees).

“Caregivers can take on many roles and responsibilities when taking on the care of a relative or friend. Unfortunately, what we found is that caregiver retirees are more likely than non-caregivers to say that their overall lifestyle in retirement is worse than they expected it to be before they retired,” said Craig Copeland, director, Wealth Benefits Research, EBRI in a statement released on July 18, 2023.

Key findings in the 2023 RCS Caregivers Report

The RCS’s findings also indicate that caregivers are more likely to have little financial cushion in retirement, having virtually no financial assets and are more likely to have a problem with debt than non-caregivers.  Twenty five percent of caregivers have less than $1,000 in savings and investments compared with 15 percent of non-caregivers. At the same time, caregivers are less likely to say that debt is not a problem — 36% compared with 48% among non-caregivers.

The researchers found that 55% of caregivers who work, and 37% of retired caregivers reported that they provide financial assistance to the recipients of their care. Over one-third of working caregivers (35%) and retired caregivers (37%) say they provided $5,000-$14,999 in financial support to their caregiving recipient in the past 12 months.

RSC’s study also found that the unpaid caregiver’s role and responsibilities are more likely to have a negative impact on their mental and physical health, than in doing specific financial tasks. Among working caregivers, 66% say their mental health is negatively impacted by the caregiving they provide, and 57% say their physical health is negatively impacted. Fifty four percent of the working caregivers reported that they had difficulty saving for emergencies and could not work the hours they wanted or needed to work.

According to RSC’s study there are no significant differences between caregivers and non-caregivers strongly or somewhat agreeing that they feel knowledgeable about managing their day-to-day finances.  Additionally, there are also no significant differences in the likelihood of caregivers and non-caregivers strongly or somewhat agreeing that they feel knowledgeable about managing savings and investments for the future.

Caregivers in many instances have less confidence in their finances than non-caregivers, say the researchers, noting that when it comes to preparing for retirement, caregivers are just as likely as non-caregivers to have done various retirement preparation tasks. These include having tried to figure out how much money they will need to have saved by retirement, thought about how much money to withdraw from their retirement savings and investments, and planned for how they would cover an emergency or big expense in retirement.

The distributions of the ages at which both caregivers and non-caregivers retired are not differentsay the researchers, noting that the likelihood of retirees having retired earlier, later, or when planned are also not different between caregivers and non-caregivers. However, the findings say that the top reason caregivers were most likely to have retired earlier than planned was because they had to care for a spouse or another family member. 

Finally, RSC’s survey found that caregiver retirees are more likely to say that their overall lifestyle in retirement now, compared with how they expected it to be before they retired, is worse than non-caregiver retirees. Specifically, 31% of caregiver retirees say it is worse, compared with 20% of non-caregiver retirees.

A call for Congress and state policies to assist Caregivers

“EBRI’s study further confirms that America’s 53 million unpaid family caregivers are experiencing harsh financial effects due to caregiving. From taking on debt to spending down savings, too many family caregivers are sacrificing their financial health to fulfill their care responsibilities, says Jason Resendez, President & CEO of the National Alliance for Caregiving. “Without federal policies such as paid family and medical leave, family caregivers will continue to risk their financial security to provide essential care for their loved ones,” he says.

According to Maureen Maigret, Chair of the Aging in Community Subcommittee of the Long-Term Care Coordinating Council, the findings are no surprise to her. They mirror findings from the 2020 National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP report, Caregiving in the U.S. which found 61% of family caregivers were women, 45% had seen a financial impact due to caregiving, and an increase in family caregivers reporting fair or poor health since 2015.

“It’s estimated that 121,000 Rhode Island caregivers provide an economic value of $2.1 billion for the care they provide,” says Maigret. 

“The fact that women represent a larger percent of unpaid caregivers is significant in looking at differences in financial situation of caregivers vs. non-caregivers,” says Maigret, who serves on the board of the Senior Agenda Coalition and Village Common of RI.

“There continues to be a wage gap for women workers which impacts them in their retirement years”, she says, noting that U.S. Census data shows there is a 21% difference in average Social Security benefits for Rhode Island women and a 43% difference in pension income.

“Women are also over-represented in a number of paid caregiving jobs with depressed wages such as nursing assistants and childcare workers, and this impacts them in retirement,” says Maigret, calling on state lawmakers to pass legislation to expand the Temporary Caregiver Insurance law paid leave program funded entirely by workers from 6 to 12 weeks as most states with such programs have done. They could also increase state funding for the caregiver respite program to allow greater amounts of respite for family caregivers to work or address their own needs.  

“The Rhode Island General Assembly can also consider a tax credit program to help offset the costs incurred by family caregivers as several states have done,” adds Maigret, suggesting that they could consider lowering the age for the Office of Healthy Aging @Home Cost Share program from 65 to 60 years to allow more caregivers of seniors with disabilities to access this program thus relieving some of their financial burden.

Deb Burton, Executive Director of RI Elder Info, notes that Rhode Islanders are disproportionately impacted by the cost of caregiving because in comparison to other states, “We have a higher per capita ratio of individuals over the age of 85 in the state. Many people in their 60’s and 70’s retired to care for their parents who are in their 80’s, 90’s and 100’s,” says the gerontologist. 

“There are also disparities in financial strain among caregivers based on race, ethnicity and age of the caregiver which must be considered in light of the EBRI study,” says Burton, citing an article penned by Richard Eisenberg. According to Eisenberg’s article in AARP. “The Family Caregivers Feeling the Most Strain” Hispanic family caregivers, spend an average of 44% of income on caregiving, African Americans spend 34% and White caregivers spend 14% on caregiving costs. Caregivers ages 71 to 91 pay more than twice the amount of caregivers ages 51 to 70. 

“We urgently need to create a Statewide Plan on Aging to address the multiple ways our added longevity is intersecting with our financial, familial and community roles,” she says.

“The House commission on older adults will begin meeting in September and we will begin by looking at a broad set of policies and programs.  We haven’t established what our agendas will look like, as of yet, but issues raised within this new report may be part of the conversation,” says Rep. Lauren Carson (D-District 75, Newport) who chairs the new study commission to take a look at funding, coordination, and deliver of state programs and services to seniors. 

“Over the next 10 years, we’ll likely have 15 to 20 percent more seniors in Rhode Island, and we need to be prepared,” says Carson, noting that the commission will take a look at all the challenges and issues at the outset.” We’ll develop more specifics as we move forward. I’m very interested in this retirement confidence survey, and I think it could really be useful to our commission as we look at the myriad of issues facing our older Rhode Islanders,” she says.

The RCS report focusing on caregivers can be viewed by visiting  

Caregiving in the US found at

For estimates of #of RI caregivers:

For caregiver data, go to US Census Age Group Gender Gap data @



Herb Weiss, LRI -12, is a Pawtucket-based writer who has covered aging, health care and medical issues for over 43 years.  To purchase his books, Taking Charge: Collected Stories on Aging Boldly and a sequel, compiling weekly published articles, go to

Herb Weiss 2-volume book set, Taking Charge