The Sandwich Generation: Tips to Navigate Your Parents’ Evolving Needs and Finding Balance in the Chaos

Article by Morgan Stanley and provided courtesy of Barbara Finder.

A multitude of economic, social and cultural factors have given rise to many middle-aged Americans providing financial, emotional and physical support for their young children, adult children and parents at the same time, often with multiple generations living under one roof. Caring for children while caring for parents, while also trying to manage your own personal and professional priorities, can be challenging.

One of the main concerns facing the Sandwich Generation is: “How do I plan for my own future – my own retirement needs – while I’m also balancing the immediate needs of my family?” By addressing the three questions below, you can start to find your balance.

What Are My Needs?

Flight attendants tell you to put on your own oxygen mask first before helping others and this is no different. The first step is to create a personal budget.

  1. Determine Your Income. Specifically, you’ll want to determine your average monthly income. If your income varies by month, estimate by averaging the past six to 12 months.
  2. Evaluate Your Emergency Fund. Maintaining access to cash in a checking or savings account in case of an emergency is essential. Your emergency fund should be separate from your day-to-day cash, and if you can, put away enough to cover at least three to six months’ of expenses.
  3. Plan for Savings & Surplus. If you have surplus in your budget, it may be challenging to decide what to do with it.  As a dual caregiver, there are an unending number of things you could do with that money, but sometimes the most important thing is to pay yourself first. A good rule of thumb is to save for your retirement ahead of your children’s college funds and your parents’ potential future care needs. Be sure to work towards paying off any debt and evaluate your insurance needs.

What Are My Children’s Needs?

One of the biggest expenses of raising a child is education. If they’re young, consider whether private school tuition is going to be necessary. There may also be the added expenses of books, extracurricular activities and tutors. If you can swing it without sacrificing your own retirement needs, you may be able to start investing in a 529 College Savings plan, and begin investing with a minimum.

If your children are planning to move back home with you after college, it’s important to set expectations. Talk through everything from rent and shared expenses to division of household chores. Don’t neglect the impact this situation will have on your own retirement goals.

What Are My Parents’ Needs?

Navigating the needs of your parents can be emotional and tricky. But staying in the loop on what your parents have saved, where it is, what plans they have for the future, and who their Financial Advisors are, will help protect their money and yours. You’ll also be better able to make decisions on their behalf in case of an emergency.

Potentially assisting your parents with budgeting for their current and future needs is important. The good news is that you can use the same process you used to create your own budget. Include discussions about their desired standard of living – and what changes would need to happen, given financial constraints. Don’t forget the hard questions: How long can my parents stay in their home? Can they afford home health care? Should they live with me? What about assisted living? Additional care? These are all discussions that need to happen before a move is required.

Finding Your Balance

Dual caregiving can be a balancing act. Don’t forget to make yourself a priority. By creating a clear picture of the needs of every generation under your care, you can map out strategies and solutions that help your entire family thrive. And if you need additional guidance on how to balance this big picture, don’t hesitate to reach out to a financial advisor for help.

Barbara Finder is a Financial Advisor in Chicago, IL at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC (“Morgan Stanley”). She can be reached by email at or by telephone at 312-648-3555. The information contained in this column is not a solicitation to purchase or sell investments. Any information presented is general in nature and not intended to provide individually tailored investment advice. The strategies and/or investments referenced may not be suitable for all investors as the appropriateness of a particular investment or strategy will depend on an investor’s individual circumstances and objectives.  Investing involves risks and there is always the potential of losing money when you invest. The views expressed herein are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect the views of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, or its affiliates. Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, LLC, member SIPC.

Why I Walk…Holly’s Story

Holly at the 2021 event with her Walk team.

For over a decade, Holly Koontz has participated in the Peoria area Walk to End Alzheimer’s in honor of the family members she has lost to Alzheimer’s disease. She sits on the Marketing Committee and provides day-of event support year after year. Participating in Walk is her way of maintaining hope for a future without the disease.

Holly’s grandpa as a young man. 

Holly has witnessed family members face Alzheimer’s disease and dementia since she was in her teens. “I was a caregiver for my grandpa when I was in high school to give my grandma a break on Sundays. It was my first encounter with Alzheimer’s…My grandma did so much to keep him home instead of a care facility.” Tragically, Holly’s exposure to the disease didn’t end there. 

Holly saw multiple aunts and uncles succumb to the disease, and one of her uncles is currently living with the disease. She knows her experience is not unique. “This impacts most every family I know at some point in time.”

Holly as a baby, held by her Grandma Ruby Garber.

“I’ve lost two grandparents on opposite sides of my family [to the disease],” shares Holly. “I fear that one or both of my parents will get it as there is so much family history.” 

“This disease is so very sad,” Holly says. “The person with it may not know what is happening but the loved ones see every day how that person is lost within themselves.” 

Participating in the 2022 Walk to End Alzheimer’s – Peoria Metro is Holly’s way to “memorialize my family members who have been lost to the disease and honor those who currently are battling it.” This will be her thirteenth year involved in the event. 

Taken at the first Walk that Holly’s blended family participated in.

“It gives me hope that treatments will be created and ultimately a cure,” shares Holly. “Someone once said to me that it’s so easy for people to donate to childhood charities or animals but we often forget about the issues that impact the elderly.” She acknowledges that all of these causes are extremely worthwhile, but Alzheimer’s has special meaning to her. It’s where she focuses most of her energy. For Holly, it’s a way “to thank my grandparents and aunts and uncles for all they did for me.”

Honor your loved one by registering for the 2022 Walk to End Alzheimer’s in your community. Get started at

Why I Walk…Marie’s Story

For Mahomet resident Marie Burge, her involvement with the Alzheimer’s Association has enhanced her understanding of the term “awareness” – both awareness for the condition itself, and awareness for the precious moments that she shares with her dad.

“Alzheimer’s/dementia is incredibly hard to witness,” says Marie. “Especially when it takes away a person you love.”

Marie chooses to focus on the positive side of life’s circumstances rather than the negative since her father’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis. She says she is “truly thankful for every moment” that she has with him.

Marie shares that “just being with him, hearing his voice, seeing his handsome smile, holding his hand – those are the moments I am more aware of and cherish daily.”

The 2022 Walk to End Alzheimer’s – Greater Champaign/Urbana will be Marie’s fourth year involved in the event. She has been consistently involved in the Champaign, Illinois Walk as a participant and team captain for Team Pops!! in honor of her father. This year will be different for Marie: she recently joined the Volunteer Committee and is excited to be involved in the planning of the event.

Raising awareness for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia is of great importance to Marie. She shares that, while this illness is incredibly hard to witness, she feels strongly that it cannot take away the memories and feelings that we have for our loved ones.

“I try not to let Alzheimer’s define who my dad is ‘now’ because I know that is not truly him,” she shares. “The imprint/legacy he leaves on this world is a blessing that defines him much more than Alzheimer’s!”

Help Marie and Team Pops!! raise awareness at the Champaign Walk to End Alzheimer’s, or visit to find a Walk to End Alzheimer’s event in your area.

Contributor: Amanda Wisinger, Alzheimer’s Association Volunteer

Solstice Champion hosts golf fundraiser to honor wife

Written by Carmen Molinaro

Alzheimer’s disease has affected me in the most life-altering way possible. Alzheimers took away my best friend and life partner of over 35 years: my wife, Susan. I had to watch as it took simple physical coordination away from a once world-class marathon runner. It took my future retirement plans and threw them out the window. The disease took my children’s mother and best friend; it took away a friend to many people; and it took a wonderful human from this earth. 

The saddest thing to deal with was watching the disease progress without being able to do anything about it. It felt like we lost her twice. Susan first became a different person than we all knew, and then physically passed. The single and only positive way Alzheimers has affected my life is that I now have a much greater appreciation of life, my family and my friends. I have always said “I love you” to people, but I find myself saying it more often. Don’t wait. Say it to those that mean so much to you.

We found tremendous support from Susan Frick and the Without Warning support group. Those get-togethers were so good for both my wife and myself. As a caregiver it was comforting to know I wasn’t alone with my questions, confusion, exhaustion and concern about the care we were all trying to give our loved ones. The bonding that took place between caregivers was swift, strong and comforting. We found others in similar situations that could offer advice and would understand our pain, our fears, and our frustration. 

An example of the bonds we created took place around Christmas. I was in my kitchen in Glen Ellyn having some melancholy moments about dealing with the holiday and trying to make sure my family stayed upbeat as it would mark one year since my wife’s passing. I got a buzz that someone was at the door, so I went down to the entry and there was a gentleman, Tom, from the Without Warning support group. He was there with a box of cookies and a hug just to let me know someone was thinking about me. I didn’t get a chance to tell him, but that one simple act carried me through the holiday with a smile in my heart. Don’t try to deal with Alzheimers alone. Get in a support group, go to therapy and lean on family and friends.

I started a fundraiser with The Longest Day in honor of Susan. I organized a golf outing–which seemed like a logical thing for me as I was retired from the golf business. My original goal was to have about 100 players and try to raise about $10,000. As things got into motion I quickly realized I had many more friends and supporters in my life! First, I got a big boost from the golf club where I work part-time in the summer, Boulder Ridge Country Club. Thanks to previous owners, the Plote Family, and the current owners, The Heritage Golf Group, they afforded me a generous discount on the complete package of golf, lunch and dinner. The fantastic staff at Boulder Ridge gave me so much help and support. I cannot imagine the event running as smoothly as it did without them at my side. Many of my fellow golf professionals donated gift certificates for rounds of golf that we auctioned off. 

Many friends from our past and present showed up to participate, sponsor, donate or help with registration and setup at the event. My fellow Rotarians from Buffalo Grove played and donated to the fundraiser. One super generous Rotarians case donated all the signs, banners and bag tags for the day’s events. Former employees of mine came from all over. Some who had worked for me during their high school and college days flew in for the event, some who worked with me up until my retirement showed support. The members of Boulder Ridge Country Club were and continue to be such great friends–not just during the event, but in the years preceding the event when they offered their friendship, support and love. Needles to say I had my family and three of my best friends urging me on and holding me up when I would wobble a bit. When it was all said and done my event had 186 golfers and nearly 200 for dinner. The final amount raised was over $32,000. This year’s event takes place on Monday, August 22, 2022 and my goal is to top that amount.

One of my all time favorite movies is Shawshank Redemption. One of my favorites lines is, “You got to get busy living or get busy dying.” In dealing with the loss of Susan, the idea of “get busy dying” would have been to sit and feel sorry for myself, my family and Susan–to sit in my misery without doing anything. That did not seem like an option for me nor one that would make Susan or my sons proud of. I chose to “get busy living” by helping raise awareness about Alzheimer’s disease and raising funds for Alzheimer’s research so that hopefully the next generation doesn’t have to deal with this horrible disease. As the population continues to live longer, Alzheimer’s unchecked will start affecting more and more of us. If we put people on the moon and bring them back, we can do this: we can end Alzheimer’s in our lifetime. More awareness means more funds raised, and more funds raised means hope for the future.

The thing I would like people to understand about Alzheimer’s disease is that it can happen to anyone. My wife Susan had no family history of Alzheimer’s. She exercised every day, she ate healthy, stayed mentally active and could have been the poster child for someone least likely to be afflicted, especially at the age of 54. It can happen to anyone and that is why it is so important to raise awareness. If it does happen to someone in your care, please do not face it alone. Join a support group, reach out to family and friends and know that you are not all by yourself. Sometimes people are a little hesitant to reach out to you first because they don’t know what to say or do. If you reach out to people first you will be amazed how much just having someone to talk to can help. I was always fortunate to have friends I could count on, but the depth and sincerity of those friendships amazed me and certainly carried me though those most difficult days.