People caring for their children as well as their aging parents are known as the “sandwich generation”. It’s a trend fueled by two things; people living longer and younger adults having a harder time finding jobs due to a faltering economy. According to Pew Research, nearly half (47%) of adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent age 65 or older and are either raising a young child or financially supporting a grown child age 18 or older.
In the past three decades the number of parents supporting their adult children has increased. A recent Wall Street Journal article titled “The Big Squeeze” says this generation of parents is under more pressure than ever because of the demands to provide more financial support to their adult children. Like the Pew Research, the WSJ article states that almost half (48%) of adults ages 40 to 59 provided some financial support to at least one grown child in the past year. 21% also provided financial support to a parent age 65-plus. This financial “squeeze” is part of the huge stress often felt by the sandwich generation.
First, let’s examine the reasons parents may support their adult children longer these days. For example, the recent recession had a major impact on young adults. It not only takes longer to complete an education, it takes much longer still to find adequate employment. As a result, more adult children are returning home to live with parents after college, between jobs or during a life transition such as divorce. In fact, it’s more socially acceptable to move home as an adult now than years ago when children turned 18, graduated high school and moved out for good.
On the other side of the “sandwich” caring for aging parents can take a toll on individuals and their spouses. Although seniors may not need the financial support of their children, a recent survey from Caring.com shows that nearly 89% of those caring for aging parents say that it has put a strain on their marriage. The survey also said that financial support is the second largest stressor when caring for aging parents.
Those people in the sandwich generation not only have their own adult kids still at home, they’re often providing care for aging parents as well. From a financial standpoint, seeking out the help of a financial advisor is a good place to start for people who find themselves as the middle part of the sandwich. A professional can provide an objective eye and put together an action plan to help individuals reach their goals. Another immediate thing to do is to research potential tax deductions and breaks for helping out family members. Knowing who can be claimed as a dependent, what expenses (such as caregiving and medical) may be deductible are a few examples of ways one can potentially save money.
If you find yourself part of the sandwich generation, it’s perhaps even more important to take care of yourself from an emotional perspective. This situation can be exhausting for those “caught in the middle.” Be sure to take time for self-care including exercise, eating right, and even therapy if that’s available for you.