The financial challenges of those in the current “sandwich generation” (generally those in the GenX generation), can derail retirement plans and the emotional fallout of being stretched so thin also takes a toll. When you’re in the middle, self-care can help you manage all the demands.
Traditional: those sandwiched between aging parents who need care and/or help and their own children.
Club Sandwich: those in their 50s or 60s, sandwiched between aging parents, adult children and grandchildren. OR those in their 30s and 40s, with young children, aging parents and grandparents.
Open Faced: anyone else involved in elder care.
No matter where you fit, you are going to feel some additional stress in trying to take care of the needs of so many people. Here are some tips to help.
Talk to Others
You aren’t the only person going through what you are going through. Other people who are also juggling so many things will have some tips that will help you navigate these sometimes confusing paths. Whether it is a friend, a coworker, a faith leader, or a professional, talking with others and sharing experiences helps.
Getting help doesn’t always mean paying for help. Look for assistance by asking what’s possible. If they are old enough, get your kids to help with tidying up your parents’ home. Enlist coordinators to help set up driving help—those can come from senior centers, volunteer organizations, or even the medical community. If you can afford help, paying for someone to do yard work or clean the house can be a huge time saver, as can grocery delivery services.
Try to Care for Yourself
In the middle of so much caregiving, any time for you seems impossible. And sometimes, it will be impossible to take care of your own needs when so many others are depending on you. But if your tank runs dry, there’s nothing left for the people you need to help or for the career you love or for the relationships you want to nurture. Because burnout is damaging and pervasive, it’s important to recognize when you need a break and what that means for you. A break can encompass a whole range of experiences—figure out what will bring you relief. Even the smallest break can offer huge benefits in recharging your outlook,
The Usual Suspects
It is repeated so often because it’s important. The trifecta of nutrition, sleep, and exercise keeps you on an even keel. Look at your pillars on a weekly basis so you don’t feel like each day has to be perfect. Overall, try to fit in some more movement, more sleep, and nutritious food that gives you energy. Being aware is half the battle and the small efforts add up.
Being in the sandwich generation means you are taking care of the needs of many people all while trying to juggle your own family and work life. It’s not easy, but taking care of yourself is an essential part of managing this time successfully.
Are you part of today’s “sandwich generation?” If you are in Generation X (born between 1965 and 1979) you very likely are. And if you are, a recent study notes that you might want to pay extra attention to your retirement planning.
Each generation goes through the time in their lives when they are likely caring for parents while also caring for children at home, often paying for college expenses, and working at the same time. All of this happens right when retirement planning becomes more urgent. The squeeze from all sides, hence the “sandwich” name, creates all kinds of pressure and stress.
And while many in the sandwich generation don’t bemoan caring for those they love, the emotional, physical, and financial struggles that come with it are very real. Some families have three generations (or more) under one roof and others are trying to balance parents who live nearby with kids at home. Either way, there is a lot of running around and reshuffling priorities depending on health, living situations, and financial needs.
Some of the biggest findings showed that the best off GenX families showed remarkably little discrepancy with prior generations. But those who were at the biggest financial disadvantage had such a drastic reduction that it influenced the study results overall.
These are findings that are worth noting for many in GenX. Although GenX sandwich generation families might have some retirement accounts in place, there are other important factors that are missing. For instance, the study found, “Generation X families in 2016 were more likely to have an individual account (IA) retirement plan than families of Millennial and Baby Boomer generations, but they were less likely than the Baby Boomer families to own a home or have any type of retirement plan.”
That means they are losing money to rent instead of investing in a home that would give them equity and hopefully additional funds upon selling the home. But the market crash of 2008 threw many in GenX into a financial turmoil, giving them less job stability and income. Without either of those, a down payment and loan approval for a home were out of reach.
And while many in the new sandwich generation in GenX are on track for retirement, the unexpected financial challenges of caring for parents and kids can take a big chunk out of retirement savings. Parents may require extra funds for health challenges, home repairs, and living expenses, particularly if they did not have enough put aside. And as children go to college, tuition expenses can be more than what was planned for.
What can families do? Even in an emergency, it’s important to remember that retirement can’t be put off. You will reach retirement age no matter what and being financially prepared is a gift to you and to your children who will not have to support you. Your savings make take a hit or drop off as you help your loved ones financially, but keeping your eye on the goal of growing your retirement will help.
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