The sandwich generation refers to working-age individuals who are in the precarious position of looking after their growing children and caring for elderly parents.
They are effectively “sandwiched” between the responsibilities of caring for their children, who require financial, physical, and emotional support, and caring for their ageing parents, who may be unwell, incapable of performing certain activities, or in need of financial assistance.
Increasing lifespans and having children at an older age have contributed to the sandwich generation phenomenon, as it has more societal acceptance for adult children to live at home. With the added pressures of managing one’s own career and personal issues and the need to contribute to one’s own retirement, the individuals of the sandwich generation are under significant financial and emotional stress.
In some cases, this generation has to postpone their own retirement planning because of the added financial obligations. There are some steps that members of the sandwich generation can take to lessen the burden.
The first step is to have a financial discussion with all parties involved. For ageing parents, the expectation is that a lifetime of work has provided them with a pension or a nest egg that will help them cover part of elderly-care costs. If this is not the case, you should get assistance as soon as possible.
Even if finances are not currently an issue, they will become one unless you put proper attention into estate planning. If one family member is shouldering the majority of the burden of caring for an ageing parent, the estate should be discussed in that light. Although the sibling may not want to be financially compensated for their care, failing to confront the issue will almost certainly lead to bitterness among the family when parents pass away.
The goal for adult children is to encourage them to contribute financially to household costs and responsibilities, and move towards independence. There are several methods to promote this, but the simplest is to set the expectation that they will pay near-market rates for room and board. This eliminates the “mom and dad discount,” which permits them to live a more lavish lifestyle than their resources can sustain in the long run.
Many of those in the sandwich generation do not want to put their children in the same situation as they are. If you don’t want to rely on your children to care for you in the future, you should consider how you would pay for your own care. With the expense of care continuing to rise, it’s critical to start thinking about how you’ll pay for it now.
At the end of the day, there are no wrong or right ways, only paths of least resistance and greatest joy. Through communication, patience and understanding, you can make almost any situation work out for the best.