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 Barbara.j.Finder@morganstanley.com 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.

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