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Stuck in the Sandwich Generation?

February 26th, 2016 Posted by Budgeting, College Planning, Family Finances, Investor Behavior, Saving, Youth and Finances 0 thoughts on “Stuck in the Sandwich Generation?”

Families can be such a source of comfort and love that many children dream about having families of their own when they grow up. As we age, of course, we learn that the benefits of family life also come with responsibilities. And just as we start thinking our children will be leaving the nest soon and some of the demands on our time and resources may lighten, we realize that our parents may need us in new ways.

A large segment of our population now belongs to what is known as the Sandwich Generation. They may feel stuck in the middle, caring for dependent children and aging parents.  On top of all that, they also need to plan for their own retirement years and potential long-term care needs.

Many members of the so-called Sandwich Generation believe in higher education and want to provide that opportunity for their children.  Others are called upon to share financial resources with a divorcing adult child or help raise a grandchild.  Furthermore, as average life expectancy increases, their aging parents may live well into their 90’s and put additional strain on already limited resources of money and time.

There is a growing trend for the in-between generation to shoulder the financial burden for both the younger and older generations.  The unintended result may be, unfortunately, that the needs and wants of these parent-children suffer in the process.  It is hard to see a way out.

Perhaps it is not as hopeless as it seems. It can be possible to balance financial responsibilities across generations. There are ways that people can potentially help their children and their parents without sabotaging their own long-term financial security and quality of life.

While there is no magic formula, a well-thought-out approach can enhance communication, build financial strength, and nurture resourcefulness in all family members. Here are some specific ideas that can help:

Plan Ahead

If you plan ahead, you may be able to lighten the load. Expenses like college tuition for your children and long-term care for your parents can be overwhelming. With the guidance of a trusted financial advisor, you can research your options and make preparations well in advance of important life events.

Request and Welcome Participation

Include your family members in the planning and preparation for their future needs and wants.  Ask them to contribute what they can, and follow up to make sure they do.

Your children could assume responsibility for a portion of their higher education expenses. The older generation should think about their eventual needs – urge them to plan ahead both financially and emotionally for their later years and the possible side effects of aging.

Nurture and Reinforce Independence

In an effort to demonstrate your love, and perhaps because you find it easier in the moment, you may do too much for your children and for your parents. The more you do for others that they can do for themselves, the more you weaken their independence.  When you do too much for a loved one, you may be implying to them that they are less capable than they really are.  It is in your best interests and theirs to nurture a spirit of self-confidence and self-sufficiency in those you love. The result could be a better life for all of you.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Kevin Cramer]