Navigating Sandwich Generation Pain Points

Are you in the sandwich generation?

Sandwich generation individuals are literally “sandwiched” between their young adult children and aging parents. The emotional and financial strain of caring for both your parents and your kids can be difficult to navigate. 

As a financial advisor, I often find that individuals and couples in the sandwich generation aren’t only dealing with the stress of responding to the needs of others. They’re also putting aside their own goals and dreams because they feel guilty about not putting their resources toward supporting both their adult kids and their aging parents. 

Let’s talk about this guilt that sandwich generation parents feel, and how to find balance in your finances.

Navigating Guilt

Money is inextricably linked to your emotions. Your finances help you to build toward your goals, support your loved ones, make an impact, and live the life you love. Unfortunately, when you’re in the sandwich generation, you may feel obligated to use a large percentage of your wealth and resources to support the goals of others. 

The drive to support your children, even if they’re nearing adulthood, is strong for many parents. Even if they are finding success in their education or career, you might feel obligated to help them out financially every once in a while. This might look like helping to fund their college education costs, helping them out with groceries, or even stepping in when it comes to bigger expenses like helping them with a house down payment. 

However, if you’re sandwiched between your kids and your aging parents, you have another set of needs to consider. Depending on the financial situation and lifestyle of your aging parents, you and your siblings may feel obligated to help them with monthly financial expenses, fund the cost of their care facility or retirement home, or even have them move in with you when they can no longer care for themselves. This additional set of financial expenses adds another layer of stress on your budget and can fuel the guilt you feel about needing to care for others even more. 

What’s critical is to understand that there’s a difference between meeting familial obligations and putting your own financial and emotional well-being aside to care for others.  

How to Balance Your Budget and Lifestyle

Being stuck between caring for your kids and your parents is challenging, but it’s possible to support them while still taking care of yourself financially. You can start by taking a few steps to get your own financial plan organized:

  1. Determine your financial goals and their corresponding timelines. These might include:
    1. Retirement.
    2. Buying a vacation home, or paying off the mortgage on your current home.
    3. Becoming debt-free before retirement.
    4. Making a big-ticket purchase like a new-to-you vehicle.
  2. Reverse engineer your goals - how much cash flow do they require? What strategy do you need to leverage to bring them to reality?
  3. Look at familial support obligations. Are you funding education for your kids? Do your parents need help with monthly living expenses?
  4. Compare the “leftover” cash flow available after you’ve built your own financial plan and budget. What can you feasibly help your parents or kids with? Are there any non-critical financial goals of your own that you’re willing to delay (like a new-to-you vehicle) in order to help parents or kids with more pressing financial needs?
  5. Have an open conversation. Honesty is critical when talking to your kids, your parents, your spouse or partner, and your siblings who may also be helping to care for your parents. Be clear about what you can and can’t contribute without guilt, and without hurting your own financial future. 

Ask For Help

Navigating the guilt you feel as a member of the sandwich generation can be challenging. Working with a financial planner can help to prepare you for your own long-term financial success while helping you address the desire you have to support your family at the same time. There’s no one “right” solution, and your advisor can help you find a strategy that works for you and aligns with your values. 

Want help? Contact us today.

Wood Smith Advisors, a woman-owned Registered Investment Advisor (RIA), is a fee-only financial services firm that partners with its clients to simplify their financial lives. We focus on women, entrepreneurs, and individuals with complex financial situations, providing objective and competent advice, education and services to help them develop and build their businesses and reach their financial goals. We can be reached by clicking here.

"Finance Made Simple" blog posts are intended for educational purposes and not for specific advice. Each person’s situation is different. Consult your financial advisor for advice relating to topics discussed.

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