The term Sandwich Generation has changed meaning since it was first coined back in 1981 by social worker, Dorothy Miller. The phrase originally described women between ages 30 through the 40s who were “sandwiched” between their young children, spouses, employers and aging parents.
Today, it still refers to a challenging juggling act, but the demographics have changed — now their parents are living longer and the experience is felt by both men and women in their 50s and beyond. Because of this extended life expectancy, the costs incurred by the Sandwich Generation can add up, even if your parents have been diligent about saving for their own future care.
And then there’s a group called “club sandwich” or “triple decker” to describe caregivers of three generations: their parents, kids, and either grandparents or grandchildren.
According to the Pew Research Center, 1 of every 8 Americans aged 40 to 60 is raising a child and caring for a parent. When you consider that Census Bureau statistics indicate that the number of older Americans aged 65 or older will double by the year 2030, to over 70 million, it’s critical that sandwich generation cohorts not lose sight of their own financial goals even as they support their families.
HERE ARE A FEW USEFUL TIPS:
Start a college savings plan for your younger children. Your financial responsibilities to your children must take precedence over those to your parents, because who else can your children look to?
Set priorities and boundaries with adult children. If your adult child is unable to find a job and turns to the Bank of Mom and Dad for help, you must define some limits and repayment terms, and do it in writing.
Who will care for the aging parent? Caring for the elders can take an emotional toll, because not all siblings and family members will agree on how to take care of a parent. Put your expectations and limits of time and money to be spent in writing, especially for the benefit of other siblings or family members—who will be the primary caregiver, and who will pay for what, etc.
Keep all documents handy. Decide who will manage and keep all records that are related to advanced and end-of-life care, plus power-of-attorney for medical care and financial matters.
Protect your own means of livelihood. Avoid leaving or taking an extended break from your job, as retirement benefits and Social Security will be permanently decreased. Trying to re-enter the workforce at the previous pay level may not be possible.
Merge households. It may not be the most harmonious living arrangement, but elder parents living with adult children definitely saves money on expenses like home owner’s insurance, taxes, child care, long-term care, and so on.
Don’t dip into your retirement savings. Never compromise your own financial future to take care of a parent. You risk passing on the loss to your own children.
Continue saving despite family obligations. Although you may feel strapped between your mortgage, raising children, and shouldering some of the cost to care for your parents, try to sock some money away.
Encourage long-term care insurance for parents. The sooner they buy it, the less expensive it should be, so don’t wait until your parents are in their 70s and/or get ill before you bring up the subject.
Government assistance. Check your local government Medicaid office to see if there are any reimbursement programs for caretakers under the state and federal government’s Cash &Counseling program. Reaching out to the people and organizations that can help you and taking some financially wise steps can transform the job of supporting family from a burden to an obligation of love and pride.
Seek professional financial guidance. Being a part of the sandwich generation can be tough emotionally and financially. A professional money manager can offer advice on the best solutions for all concerned.