Life Transitions and the Sandwich Generation

One thing we all realize as we journey through life is that change is constant.  The changes can be positive or negative, and can include things like a job change, a child leaving for college, the birth of a child, starting school, graduating from school, difficulties at work, buying a house, empty nest, marriage, divorce, or death.  When only one transition hits at a time, we are typically able to concentrate and continue to function at very high levels.  However, there are times when the combination of stressors can be so overwhelming they have a serious impact on our brains’ ability to objectively cope with our lives.

Consider the stressors of the Sandwich Generation.  This generation primarily encompasses those individuals aged 40-65 who find themselves caring for both their children and their aging parents.  They are essentially sandwiched between the generations; raising their children, saving for education, pursuing careers, saving for retirement and in many cases coordinating and providing for the daily care of their parents.  Because lifespans have increased, more adults have parents living well into their 80’s who may be in need of more assistance.  As the time demands on the Sandwich Generation increase, so too do the competing monetary demands, oftentimes to the extent adults are neglecting their own financial security.

The issues faced by the Sandwich Generation are all important and cannot be ignored.  However, when they all occur simultaneously, it is easy to focus on only the “loudest” need at the moment and push everything else out to tomorrow.  While it might seem logical to focus serially in this manner, there is great risk in this single-minded approach due to the uncertainty of the future.

Consider the following to see if any resonate with you:

  • How do I save for college and save for retirement at the same time?  Which one takes priority?
  • How can I be in two places at once to work in my profession and assist my parents in another city?
  • What if my parents are resistant to my help?  How do I proceed without infringing on their independence?
  • Can I rely on my child receiving scholarships to fund their education?
  • What if my college graduate can’t find a job?
  • Am I saving enough for my own future needs?  Can I wait until my kids are grown to worry about my own retirement savings?
  • What if I get disabled and can’t work?  Will my family be okay?
  • Can’t I just take more risk in my portfolio to compensate for all these monetary needs?  I’m not sure if my investments are helping me or hurting me.
  • My employer just changed our benefits package.  Should I be saving more to a deferred compensation package that has been made available to me or is my 401(k) savings sufficient?
  • How should we evaluate whether my parent needs to move to assisted living?
  • How do we make an “apples to apples” comparison of retirement communities to know which one is the right choice for my parents?  Are there pricing structures which would be better for their particular situation?

If you are overwhelmed and aren’t sure you are on the right financial path, you may need a financial advisor who can act as the quarterback for all the life transitions you and your family are facing.  A comprehensive financial planner can help you examine the big picture, identify the risks, coordinate the resources and provide you with a long-term game plan so you can focus on the day to day.  To see a theoretical client-case relating to the Sandwich Generation, click here.

 

And just for fun…check out the Road to Well-Being’s Life Stressors quiz to see where you land on the stress scale. A score above 300 indicates high stress levels.

About the author

Cheryl Sherrard, CFP

Cheryl is a NAPFA-Registered Financial Advisor, a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, and one of the founding members of the Clearview Wealth Management team. She is a Partner with the firm and serves as a Senior Financial Advisor and the Director of Planning.

Cheryl’s passion for exceptional client care and expertise in the planning arena allows her to develop customized financial plans for clients ensuring that they can make well-educated, informed decisions about their futures. She works with those nearing and in retirement, especially focusing on women who are alone. She is especially sensitive to those adult children dealing with generations of their families and the competing demands on their time and finances.

She focuses much of her time assisting clients with complex estate and gifting situations, trust management and later life issues for aging clients. She has become a vital resource to advisors across the United States, presenting at national conferences on issues for aging clients and clients who fall into the “Sandwich Generation.” She has also been quoted in numerous national publications, including the Wall Street Journal and AARP and speaks in the community on aging topics.

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