Kids, Retirement and a Sandwich?

Pardon me?

The Sandwich Generation has been defined as the group of adults in their 40s and 50s in the US that has a parent over age 65 and who are financially supporting at least one child.

But wait, kids are supposed to move out and parents can take care of themselves, right?

This phenomenon is occurring because while many baby boomers are reaching retirement age, many young people in recent years are “boomerang” children who continue to live with their parents after graduating from high school or college.

So what’s the big deal?

Not surprisingly, the health of those of us getting “sandwiched” is suffering.  We are more stressed and pressed for time.  We feel guilty because it seems that someone is always getting shortchanged, whether it’s our kids, our parents, our spouses, our employers or ourselves.  We have trouble sleeping because of anxiety and depression.  We worry about how we can keep supporting our loved ones before it starts to impact our own retirement lifestyle, and the cycle continues.

Is there anything we can do?

In the words of flight attendants everywhere “Secure your own oxygen mask first!”.

But how?  Like the old commercial says “Calgon, take me away!” is often our first response.  But there are strategies to help us climb out of the bubble bath and face the world.  Dealing with the issues before reaching a crisis point is important.  Ask yourself how YOU feel about elder care and what role you would like to play in the care of your loved ones. Some of us are suited to the day to day duties of caregiving while others are more comfortable helping from behind the scenes, paying bills, managing finances, etc.

The Talk

Now for the hard part:  “The Talk”.  Look for clues that the time is right.  Maybe you are doing more basic home repairs for your loved ones, or providing transport, or they are including you in meetings with tax, investment or legal professionals. Include siblings if possible and realize that you might have to broach the subject more than once.  Be sure to focus on their wishes for later life, not death or inheritance.  Including a trusted, outside advisor can be helpful  because they can take the emotion out of the situation and help everyone see clearly.

Phew, I’m glad that’s over, Now what?

Now that expectations are clear, you can enlist the help of professionals like financial advisors, attorneys or accountants to get any necessary documentation in place and handle the business end of things. Your goal is a flexible plan that everyone involved can agree upon.  Stay healthy, share duties and be honest with your immediate family about the situation, and cherish the time you have with your loved ones.

by Cheryl Sternasty CFP®