Practically speaking—The sandwich generation

My mother-in-law moved in with us the day she became a widow and lived with us for the next 27 years. At one point, I found myself caring for an aging parent and growing children while pursuing graduate school and career goals. Perhaps you find yourself in a similar balancing act and, if so, welcome to the sandwich generation! Since I’ve “been there, done that,” let me share a few things I learned along the way.

For your parents — Life becomes more complicated in just about every way as they age. Their loss of independence is challenging on so many levels. Tread lightly but begin encouraging them to look more closely at their situation. It is a delicate conversation for sure, but introduce a time to talk this over with them sooner rather than later. For additional resources visit Here are areas you will want to cover:

  • Their desires — It is important that they be heard and honored as much as possible. Balancing my mother-in-law’s needs with her desires was one of the toughest heart tugs I’ve ever experienced.
  • Finances — Keep a watchful eye on their financial picture. The potential for elder abuse abounds as diminished capacity sets in.
  • Medical — Do they have the proper legal documents in place that allows someone to direct their health and care-giving needs?
  • Trust or will — Review this every few years, especially while they are of sound mind. This critical step will save you immense headaches later.
  • Long-term care – Since Medicare has very limited benefits, what is the plan for extended care needs? Do they have enough savings or a long-term care policy? My husband and I funded a minimal policy for his mother’s care since we knew the financial responsibility would fall on us. It proved to be a wise move allowing us to secure the best of care during her final days without derailing our own financial plan.
  • Important documents — Find out location and request copies (deeds, investments, legal docs, etc.).
  • Professionals — Get a list of their professionals, e.g. attorneys, doctors.
  • Friends – Make sure you know contact information.

For You — Squeezed in the middle and feeling it? Here are some financial aspects to consider:

  1. Prioritize. Saving for your retirement should be at the top of your list unless you plan on living with your kids later.
  2. Spending plan. Make a plan to live within your means and stick to it!
  3. Check-ups. An annual review with a financial adviser can help you prioritize and stay on track.
  4. Plan for care. If it is likely the cost of care for your parents will fall on you, start planning for it now. Check available government programs such as Social Security or veteran’s benefits. And while you’re at it, make provision now for your own care.
  5. Involve family. Include siblings if possible. You may be able to look at alternative scenarios together or make provisions for the future (e.g. chipping in for long-term care insurance).

For your children — This is the perfect opportunity to model for them the way to honor parents. After all, this will be you someday.

  • If you don’t want to end up living with your children later, avoid dipping into your retirement savings to pay for college.
  • They can repay loans with their future salaries but your retirement savings might be the only resource to supplement your Social Security.
  • If you have boomerang children at home (older children who have returned to live with you) ensure everyone is clear on all expectations—before they move in. Don’t be afraid to discuss their contribution to expenses or set a target date for their planned departure.
  • Explain what changes may come about as you are required to give more and more attention to your parents. Usually children only need their questions and concerns to be addressed before making the adjustment, especially if grandparents are moving in.

If you’re a part of this burgeoning generation, take time now to work on a flexible, multi-generation plan. It will save stress, heartache and expense in the years to come. Being sandwiched in the middle isn’t easy, but honoring your father and mother and raising your children in the way they should go are high and blessed callings.

Janice Thompson

— by Janice Thompson

Thompson is a certified financial planner, and co-founder and CEO of One Degree Advisors, Inc. She speaks on financial topics and is a mentor for financial professionals, she also serves on the board of directors for Kingdom Advisors. Learn more at Advisory services offered through One Degree Advisors, Inc. Securities offered through Securities America, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC. One Degree Advisors and Securities America are separate companies.

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