Financial Planning Tips for the “Sandwich Generation”
The “Sandwich Generation” is a term that can be used to describe many adults in their 30s through 50s who support both their children and their parents — whether financially, physically or mentally.
These adults are often stressed out because they are pulled in two separate directions: They must provide for their (often growing) family, while also taking care of their elderly parents.
To mitigate such stress, Sandwich Generation adults can take the following steps to help manage their multiple roles without jeopardizing their own financial futures:
Set realistic goals. Instead of saying you want to be “comfortable” in retirement or that you want your children to attend “good” schools, define exactly what “comfortable” and “good” mean so you’ll know what it takes to reach your goals.
Reevaluate your finances periodically. Your financial goals will change over the years with changes in your lifestyle or circumstances. Revisit and revise your financial plan (and update your estate plan) as time goes by so you stay on track to meet your long-term goals.
Plan for emergencies. Life is unpredictable, and emergencies, accidents and unforeseen events can happen. To protect your finances, plan for the worst by building up an emergency fund.
“Your emergency fund can cover unexpected medical bills, long-term hospital stays and incidental costs that can threaten to throw your budget off,” said Marguerita Cheng, CFP®. “The last thing you want is financial worries when you’re already stressed and anxious about medical decisions or unexpected occurrences.”
Budget for childcare. According to a 2020 childcare survey from Care.com, the average weekly cost of childcare for one child is $244 for an after-school sitter, $300 for a daycare center and $612 for a nanny. Whichever option you choose, it could account for a substantial portion of your budget — so you may want to ask your elderly parents to help take care of their grandkids.
Just as you need to plan for emergencies and education costs, Sandwich Generation adults also need to prepare for the care for their elderly parents.
Elder care is often provided by family members, as they can help with errands, finances and personal care. Some families share these responsibilities, and some decide on a trusted agent (who may or may not be a family member) to help.
“In either case, it’s important to communicate as specifically as possible about the roles and responsibilities of the people caring for your elderly parents. When it’s appropriate, put those agreements in writing and in legal form,” said Bill Schretter, CFP®.
In addition to communicating responsibilities, Schretter identified four key areas the Sandwich Generation needs to address with aging parents:
1. Estate planning. Ensure that a family member or trusted agent has management or copies of an aging parent’s estate planning documents, such as power of attorney and a living will or terminal care directive.
2. Medical care. Budget for medical expenses, and know what medications your elderly parent is taking and why.
3. Money management. Make a plan to oversee bill payments and credit card use. For instance, create a separate checking account for discretionary spending that the elderly parent can control, with limited overdraft protection.
4. Home improvement. Many older adults restructure and renovate their homes to better accommodate their needs as they age. Talk to your parents about budgeting for home renovations that they would like to make.
Opening a dialogue with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional can help Sandwich Generation adults get expert perspective on their unique challenges in managing finances across generations. Find your CFP® professional today using the Find a CFP® professional tool.