If you’ve ever flown on a plane, then you’ve heard the flight attendant’s instructions to put the oxygen mask on your face first before attempting to assist others during an emergency. It’s a tried and true analogy to relay the importance of meeting your own needs so you can better help others but how does that look if you’re a member of the sandwich generation? What do you need to prioritize and put first in your own life so you don’t fall behind as you meet the needs of those around you?
What is the sandwich generation?
We hear a lot about millennials, Gen Z and baby boomers but there’s a growing generation that has its own moniker: the sandwich generation or club sandwich.
So, who are they? According to the Pew Research Center, the sandwich generation are individuals who have a parent age 65+ and at least one child age 18 or younger. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) and Caring Across Generations 2019 report, more than 11 million Americans are members of the sandwich generation with approximately one in seven between the ages 40 to 60 providing financial assistance to both a child and a parent.
Sandwich generation caregivers
Not only are sandwich generation members squished between two generations, Pew Research shows that more than one in ten U.S. parents are also family caregivers, providing caregiving duties to their own children but providing elder care as well. This means caring for their own young children and the older adults in the family in a hands-on way by providing daily living and/or meal assistance, medical care, transportation, or helping to maintain the home or finances of an aging parent.
All of this results in a group of middle-aged adults quite literally feeling the squeeze between juggling the needs of their kids and their parents, often including a grown child or other older relatives, all while trying to forge a career and future for themselves.
It’s a lot! So how do you balance it all?
1. Make a planning date with yourself!
It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day busyness of life with young kids and meeting the needs of your aging parents leaving you last on the list. You know that you need to prioritize yourself but where’s the time? Well, you need to make the time just like you do with everyone else! Start small but get something concrete on the calendar whether that’s setting aside a half-hour every Thursday night after dinner or a Saturday morning coffee date with your spouse on the couch. Carve out some time to focus on you and your goals. Put in on your calendar or into your phone as an alert so you’ll stick to a regular time dedicated to YOU.
2. Conduct an annual financial review
You’ve likely put more effort and attention into the plans for your kids college and your parents’ situations than you have to your own financial future but it’s not too late to start now! Conducting an annual financial review gives you a great temperature check of your current financial situation and identify areas that need your attention like credit card debt, mortgage payments, your retirement, college tuitions on the horizon, etc . Also, assess your financial burdens; are they temporary or long-ranging? What goals do you have now and in the future for your finances? Taking it one step further and engaging the help of a financial advisor can be hugely beneficial. The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) can be a good resource for finding an advisor in your area. Make sure to research any financial advisor first and fully understand how they work and what the process involves.
3. Make retirement real
Don’t neglect your own retirement planning because you’ve got college tuitions to pay and costs involved in caring for your parents. Many sandwich generation members find little time, energy and funds left over for their own retirements but it doesn’t need to be that way. First, determine how much you will need to retire and consider what goals you have for retirement. More and more, people are working well into their older years because they love what they do with some working part-time during retirement. There are several strategies to improve your retirement income planning so putting pen to paper to see where you are, and where you want to be, is mission critical.
4. Manage stress
The sandwich generation is a stressed demographic because they are giving at every turn and often never get a break. They provide emotional support to their kids and often their aging parents while trying to deal with their own stressful lives and full-time careers. Taking care of your well-being needs to be prioritized while removing as many stressors as you can from your life. This may mean saying no to baking for your kid’s school bake sale and buying store-bought cupcakes instead. Find ways to decompress and practice self-care to avert burnout whenever possible. Support groups can help too like the Family Caregiver Alliance where you can get the support you need for what you’re doing. Just like the oxygen mask on the plane, you cannot give to others if your own tank is empty.
5. Engage family members to help
Many feel overburdened by the care of elderly parents, loved ones who need their help and the daily childcare needs of their own kids. Engaging other family members to step up to the plate lessens the burden on you and helps free up your time to focus on prioritizing what you need in your own life to get ahead and plan for the future.
Bankers Life is here for you! We understand the stresses and strains of the sandwich generation. We can answer questions, review portfolios and help create financial plans. Call us to get started (888) 991-4225.