Caught between elderly parents and grown kids
Because we’re living longer, it’s not unusual for many of us boomers to have parents still living and growing children. No problem, until the elderly parents get sick or run out of money, and the grown-up kids don’t leave home because they can’t afford anything else. That’s when about 15% of us become the ‘sandwich generation’.
If that sounds like you, here are some ways to cope with being the peanut butter in the middle.
Organise your finances
Whether you’re helping struggling elders or putting children through uni – or both – keep in mind that your own retirement’s looming (or has already arrived). If you have any expensive debt, try clearing those credit cards and personal loans by adding them to your mortgage. You’ll be paying more in mortgage payments, but a whole lot less in interest in the long run.
Then do your best to up your savings, and help your parents organise their finances in the same way.
Talk about wills
Elderly people should have up-to-date wills in place, and so should you. It’s a good idea to establish enduring powers of attorney too, so your parents know their affairs will be taken care of when they’re no longer capable. That might be you or another relative, and could be crucial later on. With wills updated, executors chosen and decisions made around care plans and assets, you’ll all have more peace of mind.
Care that you can’t provide
Whether you’re just too busy or too far away, sometimes you need help caring for your elderly relatives. If rest-home prices are out of reach, think about in-home services like Meals on Wheels or cleaning, many of which are subsidised. Contact other family members for help too – they may be glad to pitch in and give you some respite.
Save for uni fees – or whatever
Your children might be nearly finished high school and are thinking about tertiary education. If you’re smart, you started saving for those uni fees long ago. Keep in mind that your kids don’t get really expensive until they reach adulthood, and even if they decide against uni, what you’ve saved can go toward launching a start-up or a first-home deposit.
If you haven’t started saving, for yourself or your kids, do it now. Every little bit helps.
You aren’t alone
Even people who aren’t in a sandwich situation can understand what you’re facing, and lend a hand. Plus there are many government and volunteer services aimed at caring for the elderly that can offer respite when you need it. Keep in touch with siblings and other relatives – no doubt they care as much as you do and want to help.
Relatives and friends can also be great resources when you’re looking for options for your kids. If they plan to work or study in another town, temporary room and board could be available, and local contacts to help them settle.