4 Ways to Not Get Stuck in the Sandwich Generation

by Jeff Rose, CPA

One of my favorite quick snacks is the simple yet delicious peanut butter and jelly sandwich. (I’m half tempted to make one now). There is nothing stickier than one of these great American traditions. It wasn’t until I recently visited Addus Adult Day Care Center that I looked at the sandwich a little differently.

While having lunch with a few of the workers, the lunch time conversation revolved around the struggles that adult parents face when they are forced to take care of their parents; an all too familiar reality for thousands of families out there. But what happens when you are forced to take care of your parents when your kids are still living at home? Now you are stuck in the middle trying to take care of both, acting as the peanut butter that sticks it all together. You are now part of the sandwich generation.

4 Ways to Not Get Stuck in the Sandwich Generation

sandwich generationApproximately 1 in 4 Americans families nowadays deal with elder care in some way. The most devastated are the ones that have not planned at all. But what can you do to prepare? Here are a few steps to consider:

1. Start saving for retirement or else…

If you keep putting it off you may find yourself backed into a corner where it’s too late. Now you are forced to cover the expenses for your parents and the kids. Start putting money in your 401k at work, especially if they have a match. Or open the Roth IRA you keep telling yourself you should. Just do something!

2. Watch the Debt

Do you really need the 50” plasma on sale at Best Buy? How about that $500 per month on the gas guzzling SUV? Keep your expenses in check and boost that emergency fund. Stop looking at purchases as “How much the payment will be per month” and what the actual cost will be. If you can’t pay cash, don’t buy it…period.

3. Save For College Yesterday

If you can swing it, open a 529 College Savings plan and start investing as little as $25 per month. Starting earlier will allow you to get jump start on funding their college education. But don’t go overboard. Your retirement should be your priority.

If you can’t afford to save for their college, have an honest talk with your kids. Don’t sell them dreams of Harvard when you can only afford the local State University.

4. Be the parent of your parents

Talk to your parents about their financial situation. If it’s not too late and they can afford it, have them consider long term care insurance. Inquire about their retirement savings and find out if they have enough saved to take care of themselves. Make sure they let you know the location of important documents such as: wills, trust documents, insurance policies, investment account statements, stock certificates, etc.

A little planning and fact finding can go a long way.  Just start now before the situation gets too sticky.

Published or updated October 5, 2012.
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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Craig

I think your best tip is to only pay for items you can afford in cash. Too many times you hear deals on financing, and can pay only X amount low cost per month. The reality is that puts you in debt and it adds up to more over time. If you really want something, set out a plan to save appropriately, do the research and then buy when able.


2 Curious Cat Investing Blog

Starting to save early for retirement is so important. You don’t need to be rich to have a financially sound retirement but you do need to start saving early.

And long-term care insurance is another key to reducing your risks. It really is important to talk to your parents about it.

The other big risk people fail to insure is disability insurance. You are much more likely to be disabled and unable to sustain your earning power than you are to die. But more people have some life insurance than have disability insurance.


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