Nancy and Bob are in their 40s, and have two teenage children. Nancy's father, who lives about 30 minutes away, is a widower living alone. He's able to care for himself, but Nancy checks in with him daily by phone and visits several times a week to make sure he's taking his medications and eating right. Nancy and Bob are worried about how they'll afford college for their sons and save for their own retirements at the same time. Between work, the boys, and visits to Nancy's dad, they often don't have much time for themselves. Sound familiar? If so you can count yourself as part of the "sandwich generation."
The sandwich generation, or "sandGEN", describes adults who are responsible for both their dependent children and their aging parents. About 1 in 8 Americans ages 40 to 60 are raising a child and caring for an elderly parent at the same time. Seven to 10 million adults are caring for a parent long distance. As Americans live longer, but not always better, more middle-aged children will find themselves thrust into the role of caregiver and parent to both young and old. And it's affecting their own financial security as well. Almost half of sandGEN has not saved enough for their own retirement. If you're feeling the squeeze, here are some helpful tips and resources.
Members of sandGEN often find themselves faced with financial decisions that their aging parents are no longer able to handle. One of the most important things you can do is talk to your parents about their finances so you know exactly where they stand and what they need. Also talk to them about how they would like to be cared for if they become seriously ill or incapacitated. Are they ready financially to handle unexpected or long-term medical care? Have a candid discussion about their wishes for medical care and put it in writing with a health care directive.
At the same time, sandGENs need to take care of themselves. Most parents consider paying for college their duty, but planning for your own retirement is more important. Make sure you know what you need to save for retirement and make that a priority. College loans, while not ideal, can get Junior through college. But there are no loans for retirement.
The good news is that there's lots of support available including geriatric care managers, elder law attorneys, government agencies, and financial planners. You don't have to juggle these responsibilities alone.
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