The “Sandwich Generation.” It’s an odd sounding name for a common predicament.
Merriam-Webster says that this is “a generation of people who are caring for their aging parents while supporting their own children.” As the American population ages, and it is most definitely aging, new challenges arise that will require new solutions, new skills, and a whole host of support services.
Consider the baby boomers. Typically, they’re raising children and saving for college. They’re working hard and saving for retirement. Perhaps they are climbing the corporate ladder or running their own business. They’re likely in a relationship, so they’re putting time and effort into a partnership with their significant other.
All the while they’ve got an aging parent whose health may be starting to decline and who is beginning to require support in time, emotion, and dollars.
Andrea Katz, a director at Santa Barbara-based retirement community Maravilla, sees the stress and strain this combination of factors places on everyone involved. “Often, the aging parents really need to leave their homes and move somewhere where they can get more support with health and other challenges. But the senior sees this kind of move as giving up independence,” Andrea told me.
Beside the issue of independence, finances pose a problem. Andrea went on to say that the most common question she hears, the question that keeps seniors awake at night, is, “How long will my money last?” There is a saying in financial planning circles that goes like this: “You don’t want to run out of money before you run out of breath.” This is a very real, very pressing concern for seniors and rightly so.
Finally, there is the issue of downsizing. Over the course of a long and full life, we all accumulate a lot of stuff. Think of the number of storage units that have appeared in recent years. Today you can even order a storage unit for your home. Companies with names such as PODS will deliver a large container to your house and leave it so that you can have access to your stuff immediately, rather than having to drive to visit your belongings across town.
Often seniors are unwilling to part with belongings, particularly when they feel that their heirs may want some of them. What to do with all that stuff?
Health, finances, and downsizing. These are three of the most common challenges faced by seniors and by their adult children who care for them.
What to do? In a future column, we’ll address each of these three issues and discuss some simple strategies that may help minimize the stress and strain of caring for your parents, caring for your children, and caring for yourself in this challenging situation.
Kevin Bourke is a registered principal with and securities offered through LPL Financial Member FINRA/SIPC.