Submitted by Krista McBeath, McBeath Financial Group
The “sandwich generation” is a group loosely defined as people in their 40s to 60s who are sandwiched between caring for children and an aging parent. Once you’ve reached this age, you’re probably going to be looking forward to and dreaming about your own retirement. However, because many women are waiting longer to have children, and their parents are living longer, the financial demands of this age group can be challenging. I am a perfect example of the “sandwich generation.” I may be over 40 and my husband is definitely over 50. We are “sandwiched” between an active 10-year-old daughter, and parents who are often feeling their years as they approach 80 and beyond.
Because women are most likely the ones who step into the caregiver role, they can feel not only the financial stresses of caring for aging parents and children still at home but also the emotional stresses. Many women feel the need to have a “do-it-all” mentality, when in reality that kind of mindset is a surefire way to end up having a nervous breakdown. Financially and physically, caring for anyone is a marathon, not a sprint. Whether your ailing parent lives with you for five years or your recently graduated daughter moves back in for six months, you have to approach each situation with the same mindset. You must pace yourself.
Even if you have to sacrifice income by stepping back at work through reduced hours, unpaid time off, or turning down a promotion, there are ways to keep your finances on track:
- Establish a budget, and stick to it.
- Keep your debt under control.
- Invest in your own future by putting as much as you can into your retirement plan.
- Don’t quit your job before exploring other arrangements.
Specifically, if you’re caring for your parents, be sure to talk to them about their financial resources. If they have long-term care insurance and/or retirement income, those benefits could be used to lessen the financial stress on you and your family. If your parents are still living on their own, there are things you can do to help them maintain and organize their financial situation:
- Take inventory of your parent’s assets and consolidate their financial accounts.
- Get a current list of the medications each parent takes.
- Have your parents establish a durable power of attorney and health care directive.
- Speak to a tax professional about potential tax breaks for being a caregiver.
- If it is necessary, look into assisted-living options.
At some point, it may become necessary to have your parent(s) move into your home with you. This can be an expensive and complex decision, so here are some steps you can take to make the transition easier:
- Talk with your parents in advance about both of your expectations and concerns.
- Set up a separate room and phone for your parents to have some space and privacy.
- Find local programs and resources that are offered for seniors in your community.
- Keep the lines of communication open, especially if you still have children at home.
- If you are married, make sure you and your spouse are on the same page. You will not want the added stress of friction in your marriage.
This can be a complicated time for everyone in the home. If you still have teenagers in the house or “boomerang children” who’ve returned home, remember to give them the attention, financial education, and communication necessary to make this time as easy on them as possible. Being open and honest with your children about their college expectations versus your financial reality will make the conversation much easier when the time comes.
Most importantly, you cannot allow yourself to get lost in the midst of taking care of everyone else that you fail to take care of yourself. Between your job, your parents, your children, and your spouse, taking time for yourself might seem impossible. However, don’t feel guilty about taking time for yourself. Remember to eat right, get as much sleep as possible, and exercise. When you put your own needs first occasionally and look after yourself, you’ll be in a better position to care for those around you.
Krista McBeath is the founder and president of McBeath Financial Group in Normal. The firm covers all areas of financial management, specializing in retirement and financial planning solutions. For more information, you may call 309-808-2224 email: [email protected] or visit their website McBeathFinancialGroup.com
Fee-based financial planning and investment advisory services are offered by McBeath Financial Group, a Registered Investment Advisor in the State of Illinois. Tax preparation and insurance products are offered through McBeath Tax and Financial Services, LLC. McBeath Financial Group and McBeath Tax and Financial Services, LLC