Strategies for the “Sandwich” Generation

If you are taking care of your aging parents and still helping your own children, you are part of the “sandwich” generation. If you feel as if you will never be able to go off duty because of all the people who make demands on your time and money, here are some strategies for the “sandwich” generation.

Quite a few people start having children when they are in their forties. Your parents could already be in their sixties and seventies, when you have toddlers. By the time your children are in high school, you will be in your fifties with parents in their seventies or eighties. You should be focused on plowing lots of money into your retirement account. However, instead you find yourself pulled in many different directions, without the energy or resources you need for yourself.

How People with Adult Children Can Get Pulled at Both Ends

You do not have to be raising young children to be in the sandwich generation. Your children might be adults but need financial help because of student loans or other financial pressures. Additional reasons you might need to assist your adult children include things like:

  • You have a child with a disability.
  • One of your children struggles with substance abuse.
  • You might have a child who does not manage his money well.
  • You have a twenty-something or older child, who is in graduate school.
  • You provide much of the childcare for or you raise one of your grandchildren.

These are only a few examples of the reasons you might find yourself having to lend a helping hand to your parents and your adult children.

The Financial Impact of Taking Care of Two Generations

Any of these situations can put demands on your time, energy and finances. People who take care of their older parents and their own children often suffer as a result. For example, these caregivers drive everyone else to their medical appointments but do not have to time to go for routine checkups. There are not enough hours in the day to go for a walk to de-stress or get physical exercise. Sleep deprivation is common among “sandwichers.”

The financial impact of dual caregiving can be both short-term and long-term. If you are constantly picking up medications and groceries for your elderly parents and helping your children financially, you might find yourself having a cash flow strain. The time the double caregiving takes from your schedule can also make it impossible for you to engage in the amount of gainful employment you would like, so you can increase your retirement savings.

How to Handle the Stress and Exhaustion of Dual Caregiving

You are not alone. Many people have walked this path before you. They offer these suggestions:

  • Contact your local government agencies, community groups, senior organizations and charitable entities to find as many resources as possible to take some of the weight off of your shoulders. Adult day programs, respite care and other services can be a godsend.
  • Find sources of funding to ease your financial strain. Your aging parents might qualify for more benefits than they currently receive. You can use the website Benefit Finder to locate additional financial help, like Medicare, Medicaid, veterans benefits and many other programs.
  • Change your expectations. Your house does not have to be perfect. Your teens can get rides with friends, or you can set up a carpool.
  • Set a daily sleep goal of at least seven hours and stick to it. You cannot help anyone, if you get so exhausted that your health deteriorates.
  • Try to find the humor in daily situations.

Remember, this stage is temporary. You are creating memories that you will treasure.

References:

HuffPost. “This Is What No One Told Me About Suddenly Joining The Sandwich Generation.” (accessed November 8, 2019) https://www.huffpost.com/entry/sandwich-generation-caring-for-kids-parents_n_5d24c00ee4b07e698c418fc9

Benefits.gov. “Benefit Finder.” (accessed November 14, 2019) https://www.benefits.gov/benefit-finder

Feeling Squeezed? You Might be a Sandwich

The phrase “sandwich generation” is used to describe people who are caring for their parents and their children at the same time. The number of people who fall into this category is growing, according to an article from The Motley Fool, “How to Help Your Parents Retire Without Derailing Your Own Retirement.” A survey found that about 16% of Americans are currently caring for an elderly relative, and this number is expected to double within the next five years.

What’s worse, very few people are planning for this situation.

Planning is the only way to stop what has been called a self-perpetuating cycle. Without planning, caring for parents could derail your own retirement, making you need the support of your children when you get older, and while your kids are trying to save for their children’s college educations and preparing for their own retirement. Sound familiar?

What can you do to prevent this cycle?

See if your parents qualify for any assistance programs. There are government and private programs to help with housing, food, utilities and healthcare. The programs vary by location and the situation of the people who are seeking help, but there is help, if you know where to find it.

If parents are over 65, there is something called Supplemental Social Security Income, or SSI. This is in addition to the regular Social Security benefits and might be enough to close the finance gap. In 2019, SSI provides up to $771 per month for an individual or $1,157 for a couple, if the requirements are met.

Cost cutting. If your parents don’t have a budget, help them create one so you can all be aware of how much money is coming in and how much is going out of the household. Could they tighten their discretionary spending? They could also consider a reverse mortgage on their home, if they have enough equity. Are you willing or able to have them come live with you?

Selling items could also free up cash for living expenses. If they have a house filled with memorabilia, or valuable antiques, and are willing to do so, they can combine downsizing with making some income.

Creating a plan. Get everyone in the room—parents, siblings and spouses. Discuss the challenges ahead and make sure that everyone is clear on what expenses everyone can help with. Housing and healthcare are necessary. Luxury cars and vacations are not.

If the adult siblings need to adjust their own spending to help the parents, be realistic with each other. How much are you able to contribute, and how much are you willing to contribute? No one sibling should have to shoulder the burden themselves, unless they are wildly wealthy, and it won’t make a dent in their lifestyle.

Along with the financial planning, make sure that your parents have an estate plan. They’ll need a will, a power of attorney for finances and a healthcare power of attorney. The cost of working with an estate planning attorney to ensure that this is in place, is far less than dealing with court proceedings, if you need to pursue guardianship or settle the estate without a will.

Reference: The Motley Fool (Aug. 25, 2019) “How to Help Your Parents Retire Without Derailing Your Own Retirement”