Middle-aged adults find themselves sandwiched between caring for an aging parent and raising a young child or financially supporting a grown child. According to the Pew Research Center, a non-profit think-tank in Washington D.C., 47% of adults in their 40s and 50s find themselves to be members of the ‘Sandwich Generation’, a term officially added to dictionaries about 10 years ago.
Says Kim Parker, Pew’s Director of Social Trends Research, “more and more adults are finding themselves in a position where they have to provide at least some level of care or support to an (elderly) parent.” And many of our kids find it difficult to establish or maintain financial independence. Parker adds, “Think of all those millennials who have boomeranged back into their parent’s homes.”
In addition to the emotional stress of being pulled in several directions, juggling high priority commitments, and the role reversal of a parent/child relationship, there is financial stress too. In a recent issue of MarketWatch, a financial newsletter, Charles Passy – a reporter for The Wall Street Journal – offers six tips for the Sandwich Generation about how “to manage your parents, your kids and your sanity” (with the caveat that each family’s situation is different).
1. Get everyone’s finances out in the open
You can’t take over paying bills and filing taxes without comprehensive information. You need to know where the investments are and about potential liabilities. Your financial plan will have to be revised to incorporate everyone’s current and future needs & obligations.
2. Understand whose money it is
Just because, for example, you’re responsible for paying all the bills doesn’t mean it’s ‘your money.’ As Passy writes: “With my father, I cede many (though not all) financial decisions to him because I respect that the savings he built over a lifetime are his. Conversely, with my kids, I make them pay their fair share for certain things, even when my wife and I can afford to shoulder the cost alone”.
3. Seek out the right professionals and organizations for help
Are you a financial wizard, a legal expert and a trained social worker all in one? No matter how you might try, you’re not. Identify the areas where you need help, invest the time to find the right professionals, then let them do the work. Start with the basics: a financial advisor, preferably one who is a CFP® , CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER ® and lawyer or notary to prepare wills, living wills, powers of attorney (your financial advisor can usually provide a referral). And depending on the type of care required, identify the government and volunteer agencies who may be able to supply the specific services you need.
4. Find good care
It may be something of a cliché to suggest this, but it never hurts to ask friends, family members and neighbours for recommendations. As Passy observed: “I found my dad’s caregiver through a neighbor who just happened to know a caregiver looking for a new client”. And if you’re not ready, mentally or financially, then investigate part -time, volunteer help and “caregiver relief” programs.
5. Make time for yourself
Guilt comes with the territory of being part of the Sandwich Generation. It’s easy to feel that you haven’t given enough of yourself to the people who need you. Especially on the weekends, make time to go to the gym, read, visit friends. It’s well acknowledged that to remain a caregiver, self-care is key.
For a comprehensive resource of services and suggestions to Caregivers in Quebec, check out the following link: http://www.seniors.gc.ca/eng/sb/caregivers/qc/index.shtml
For guidance and highly specific support articles (for purchase), you may find of value: www.thesandwichgeneration.com
The final tip: 6. Love your loved ones
Would we trade these challenges for a life of total personal freedom? Though we might sometimes dream about it, the answer is likely “no”. When things get rough, we need to remember that the needs of our parents and children exist because these are the truly meaningful relationships with which our lives have been blessed.