Four practical financial tips for the ‘Sandwich Generation’

The coronavirus economy has shaken millions of Americans’ confidence in their ability to retire comfortably. In fact, a recent study by EBRI shows a quarter of retirees say the pandemic has made them less confident that they will have enough to live comfortably throughout retirement.

Older Gen Xers and younger Boomers have been forced to reconsider or restructure their retirement plans in the pandemic’s wake to account for unexpected obstacles. Namely, adult children who have moved back home due to lost income or unemployment and aging parents who require financial assistance to afford long-term care or their own retirement.

Left to juggle the costly and often time-consuming needs of both dependents, demographers often refer to this select group as the “sandwich generation.” Stretched thin, these multigenerational caregivers – typically parents in their late 30s, 40s, and 50s (prime working years) – are subject to a unique set of challenges and struggles that have been further exacerbated thanks to the pandemic.

Twelve percent of Americans currently fall into this group, according to data from the Pew Research Center. However, this number is expected to rise, as more individuals prepare for retirement and more millennial families delay having children.

Because women typically assume the brunt of childcare, elderly care and domestic responsibilities, they often carry most of the responsibility and stress. Nearly ten million working mothers are currently suffering from burnout, according to a recent analysis.

This tug-of-war can feel emotionally and financially taxing. If you’re among that 12% feeling overwhelmed, here are a few things you can you do right now to help ease that stress.

  1. Assess your finances: Before you sit down to figure out what kind of assistance you can provide to your loved ones, take stock of your own financial situation. Establishing boundaries between what you want to do and what you’re financially able to do is important and will help you avoid any surprises or disappointment in the future.
  2. Plan ahead: To minimize stress and anxiety during this challenging season, establish a healthy financial plan and clear goals to help ensure you don’t outlive your assets. Having protected lifetime income from an annuity is a cost-effective way to guarantee income for life and combat risk. It can help supplement the other source of protected lifetime income – Social Security – and can be especially valuable if you don’t have a pension.
  3. Talk with your parents about money early and often: Have a candid conversation with your parents about their financial situation and what their needs are before a crisis hits. Make sure you fully understand what funds they have, where they are located, and any penalties associated with early withdrawals. Also, if you are already paying more than half of your parents’ expenses, consult your financial professional about claiming them as dependents on your tax return.
  4. Involve your children in financial conversations: While you’re talking over expectations with your parents, take time to do the same with your kids. Maintaining open communication with your children, especially when times are difficult, is an opportunity for you to impart important financial values, priorities and behaviors that will help them make good financial decisions when they are older.

For more information on The Sandwich Generation, tune in to the Your Money Map conversation with Jean Chatzky, featuring Michelle Singletary, a personal finance columnist at The Washington Post, and Kim Parker, the director of social trends research at Pew Research Center, on Wednesday, May 5, on the Alliance for Lifetime Income Facebook page.

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