The Sandwich Generation was a term coined by Dorothy Miller in 1981 to describe adult children who were “sandwiched” between their aging parents and their own maturing children. There is even a term for those of us who are in our 50’s or 60’s with elderly parents, adult children and grandchildren – the Club Sandwich. More recently, the Boomerang Generation (the estimated 29% of adults ranging in ages 25 to 34, who live with their parents), are adding to the financial pressures as Boomers head into retirement. It is estimated that by 2026, 1 in 5 Canadians will be older than 65. This means fewer adults to both fund and provide for elder care. Today, it is likely that the average married couple will have more living parents than they do children.
What are the challenges?
The truth is that many members of the Sandwich Generation find the circumstances are both emotionally and financially draining. In the past, women have been looked upon to provide the primary care giving in the home while men take care of the income needs. Today, roles have changed with the majority of working age women employed outside of the home. As a result, financially, both parents are looked upon to provide for the family. For The Sandwich Generation helping their parents and their children at the same time, creates a stress that can affect both their mental and physical health.
Risk Management in the Sandwich Generation
Having an effective financial plan becomes key in dealing with the challenges. As the main breadwinner in this situation it is possible that three generations are dependent upon you. One of the first issues to be addressed then is how you protect your revenue stream.
5 Steps to Minimize risk for the Sandwich Generation
- Have an open and clear discussion about family resources and needs – The older generation needs to have a discussion with their children so that everyone knows what steps have or have not been taken to provide for the senior’s care when they are no longer able to care for themselves. This would also be a good time to initiate or continue any talk about what liquidity needs exist for taxes, long term care, funeral costs and last expenses etc.
- Complete a life insurance needs analysis – Where there is not sufficient capital to continue family and dependent’s income at the death of a breadwinner, life insurance can provide the necessary funds required to maintain lifestyle, pay debt, reduce mortgages, fund children’s education and provide money for aging parent’s care. Life insurance is an affordable way to guarantee future security.
- Review your disability and critical illness coverage – If there is not sufficient income that will continue to be paid should you become unable to work due to sickness or accident, consider long term disability coverage. Critical illness insurance will provide needed capital in the event of diagnosis of a life threatening illness or condition. Not only will this provide financial support but will also improve your chances of recovery without the financial stress that often accompanies such a condition.
- Investigate Long Term Care Insurance – Having the appropriate amount of LTC insurance will help to reduce the stress of having to care for a parent when they are no longer able to fully care for themselves. Consider having all the siblings share the cost.
- Draft a Living Will or similar Representation Agreement – Making your wishes known to your loved ones in the event you are no longer capable of making medical decisions will go a long way to providing comfort to all concerned when difficult choices need to be made.
As you can see, being part of the Sandwich Generation can be very stressful – emotionally and financially. Having someone to talk to or being part of a support group dealing with this issue, will certainly help manage the emotional challenges. Sitting down with a financial advisor or estate planner will help you determine what strategies you may need to implement to provide the financial security your family needs.