Stuck in the Middle: Easing the Stress of the Sandwich Generation

 by Brittany Cox, Financial Advisor

 According to Pew Research, about 1 in 7 middle-aged adults are providing financial support to both an aging parent and a child. That equates to some 40 million Americans between the ages 40 to 59 helping a parent, or both parents, with the tasks of daily living and half of those adults are also caring for a minor child or financially supporting an adult child. Termed the “Sandwich Generation”, these adults are sandwiched between caring for their own children as well as an aging parent. On their own, each of these tasks is quite tiresome and stressful but for some, juggling both simultaneously is part of their everyday life.

Millennials are facing a very similar issue with their baby-boomer parents. On average, first-time parents are four years older than in 1970. This means that younger caregivers are now forced with balancing the costs of their own family with costs and time needed to care for an aging parent. AARP says most caregivers have jobs, but more than half end up making changes to their career path due to the extensive hours spent on care.

The hours spent on care are not the only exhausting factor for these caregivers.  Their finances often take a hit. When elderly parents aren’t prepared for the cost of living during retirement, it’s their caregiving children who often step in to pick up the slack. Caregivers may find themselves paying for many daily expenses such as prescriptions, doctors’ co-payments, transportation to appointments and errands, and groceries. According to agingcare.com, 34% of caregivers spend $300 or more per month on expenses associated with caregiving. Three-quarters of Americans think the financial responsibility of aging parents lies with the children. However, the majority of parents don’t want to place that burden on their children. This is why it’s increasingly important to be prepared for the costs of living during retirement and the necessary care when it becomes needed.

On a positive note, an increasing number of adults say they feel that they are prepared for retirement, long term care included. But, because the parents don’t want to be a burden to their children, they often don’t ask for help even if the kids are willing to provide it. The majority of young adults say that they want to know what is expected of them in terms of care for their aging parents. They would prefer there be a plan in place for the future when care is needed and they would like to be in the loop about the financial help that may become necessary.

How can Boomer generation parents help their children with the upcoming “burden”? Talk to them. Adult children need to know where to find important documents about their parents’ assets and insurance. It’s thought that a key reason the millennials aren’t in the loop about their parents’ finances and expectations is that the parents fear they would have to disclose details about their money. However, these details do not have to be disclosed. The details that must be discussed include where to locate financial and legal records, how these records can be accessed when needed, and who the advisers are and how to contact them.

These details are very important since 1 in 9 Americans over 65 and 1 in 3 over age 85 have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. If the parents are counting on the children to help manage their money or pay their bills, parents must disclose how to access this information. It’s never too early to talk about finances, but it can be too late.

For the caregiver, learning to handle the stress associated with caring for an aging parent is of utmost importance. Organization can substantially lower that stress. Create files for important items such as the will, insurance information, phone numbers and locations of important contacts (doctors, attorney, accountant, financial advisors, etc.), tax information, and recurring bills. Also, keeping track of the personal expenses related to care can come in handy at tax time. Research the help available in your community and look to other family members to assist with some of the care. Be sure to create time for breaks and take care of yourself.


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