If you have growing children and aging parents, and you're caring for both, it can be a challenging situation. Even with help and a solid support system, you can feel emotionally taxed. You are part of a growing population of adults in the same situation—often referred to as the "sandwich generation"—and you're not alone. But what is the sandwich generation dealing with financially and emotionally?
What is the sandwich generation?
The aptly named "sandwich generation" comprises individuals who are both raising their children and caring for aging parents. People in the sandwich generation often juggle the responsibilities of work, home and personal lives, and are looking after not just themselves but their kids and their parents. All of these are vying for big chunks of their attention.
If you fall into in the sandwich generation, you may be experiencing some of these six common sources of stress:
1. Competing priorities
One of the biggest challenges is managing all the tasks stacked up for you. You may be trying to work steady hours and build your career, but you also need to run errands for your parents and taxi your children from school to their activities. It often can feel like there's just not enough time in the day, much less any time for yourself.
2. Increasing responsibility
Another challenge is a mounting sense of responsibility. Not only do you have the pressure of raising your kids, but your parents may become unable to care for themselves. Some members of the sandwich generation are managing the care-taking for three generations. That can be an extremely daunting task.
3. Unrelenting guilt
You may feel like you're unable to give your parents the level of care they need. Or you might worry you're not giving your children the same depth of attention as you would if you didn't have elderly parents to care for. You may even think you shouldn't take time for yourself because there are too many other things to do.
4. Languishing retirement accounts
The sandwich generation's biggest hurdle might be feeling secure about their preparation for retirement. With rising health care costs and the cost of living in general, it can feel insurmountable that you'll save enough money to comfortably retire. This is especially true if you are taking care of parents who themselves lack the retirement resources to cover their needs. And, due to so many financial responsibilities, you might not have as much disposable income as you'd like to contribute to your own future.
5. Conflicting savings goals
On top of your own individual short- and long-term financial goals, you're also pulled to save for your children's and your parents' potential futures. The
6. Looming personal debt
Another challenge you may be facing is your own debt.
How the sandwich generation can help avoid financial stress
It's simply not easy to be squished in the middle of all these demands. But you may be able to take certain steps so your situation feels more manageable. Here are some suggestions to consider that can help you thrive from within the sandwich generation:
Prioritize long-term financial goals
Even if you're already stretched thin, it's crucial to ensure that you and your loved ones are taken care of financially in the future. Start by creating a
Consider life insurance & disability insurance
At this point in your life, you have considerable responsibilities. But, nothing is guaranteed. In order to feel a sense of peace and, therefore, reduce stress, consider purchasing life insurance and disability insurance for yourself so that your loved ones will be taken care of financially if something happens to you.
Even if you are young and healthy,
Have heart-to-heart conversations
It may help you manage the stress if you have regular
For example, if your elderly parent needs help with household chores, explain that you can only do so much because you also have young children to care for. By being honest and open and making expectations clear, you can help reduce stress and avoid resentment.
Involve children in college planning
As your kids head into their teen years, consider looping them into the financial discussions about going to college. This will help them understand your financial limitations and be realistic about what you can pay for. It also can be a good bonding experience as you work together to plan for their future. Involving your children in
If your children are still young, don't forget to take advantage of tools like a
Consult with a financial advisor
With so many demands on your time and resources, it's important to have a clear financial plan. A
Make time for yourself and seek support
It's easy to get so caught up in taking care of others that you forget to take care of yourself. But if you're not taking care of your own needs, you won't be able to take care of anyone else. Make sure to schedule some time each week for activities that make you happy.
Having so many caretaking duties also can be isolating, so it's important to seek out supportive relationships. Join a group and meet other people in similar situations. Talking to others who understand what you're going through can help you feel less alone and more equipped to handle whatever challenges come your way.
Being in the sandwich generation has its rewards
While being a member of the sandwich generation can be a difficult position to be in, it also can be an incredibly rewarding one. When you're struggling, just remember that you're the glue that holds your family together. You're providing an invaluable service to both your children and your parents, and it will pay off in the long run.
If you are a part of the sandwich generation, know that you're not alone. There are ways to manage the stress as long as you're willing to reach out for help and support.