The sandwich generation is that growing group of people - typically in their 40s and 50s and more often than not, women - doing their best to juggle the responsibilities of work, young or teenage children, ageing parents, their partner and the family household.

With pressure coming from both ends of the family unit, this sandwich effect can be overwhelming for those who are caught in the middle.

Rising house prices are keeping children at home longer and this can stretch the household finances. When it comes to elderly parents, on the other hand, the cost is more often about time rather than money.

While helping kids and parents financially may just be what you do, this sort of generosity often means your own wealth-building plans are put on hold because of a lack of time, money or both. It’s one of the reasons that one in five Australians expects to retire with a mortgage and almost 50% with at least some level of debt.   

One outcome of retiring with debt is that your super savings tend to be used to pay off that debt, which rather defeats the whole purpose of superannuation. One of the biggest challenges for this group is to find some ‘me’ time to dedicate to their own financial goals.

Longevity, greater workforce participation and having children later in life means that one quarter of
Australians could experience 'sandwich pressure' at some point.

It’s estimated that around 1.5 million middle-aged Australians are in this situation^1. While caring for kids and parents at the same time isn’t a new phenomenon, the impact on today’s carers is magnified because on the one hand, they’re having children later while on the other, their parents are living longer.

Whereas earlier generations could reasonably expect the kids to be off their hands before attending to their parents’ needs, today these two responsibilities often bump into each other. And the costs aren’t just the obvious ones like school fees and aged care expenses. The emotional and physical costs can be equally severe.

According to First State Super’s Senior Aged Care Specialist, Anna Lawton, ‘Where the primary carer is juggling multiple roles - a job, their own kids, their ageing parents - it’s common that they put themselves last and this can impact on their own health and wellbeing.’

So if you’re in or about to join this generation, what can you do to ease the financial, emotional and physical stress? Here are some tips:

  • Don’t keep the problems to yourself. Most people have family or friends who have been in similar circumstances.
  • Find time for a frank discussion with your parents about their finances. You need to factor their financial needs into your own plans and decisions.
  • Seek an Aged Care Assessment and check with Centrelink about parent and carer entitlements.
  • Seek professional assistance. You need a plan for managing unforeseen expenses and unplanned absenteeism.

How we can assist

If you find yourself in a ‘sandwich’, it could be time to get advice from our experts. Our financial planning team can assist you understand the issues and prepare a plan for setting and managing priorities. Typically, this plan will address things like:

  • Debt and cash flow management.
  • Planning for age-appropriate accommodation, implications of downsizing; granny flat options, retirement village living, aged care / home care fee explanations.
  • Estate planning and the importance of wills, powers of attorney, guardianship.
  • Wealth accumulation strategies toward funding a comfortable retirement.
  • Personal protection plans to protect your most valuable asset – you!

All our members have access to financial advice over the phone, or face to face at one of our metropolitan or regional member service centres. If you’d like to arrange a no-obligation discussion with one of our experienced planners, just call us on 1300 650 873.

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  1. SMH 'A generation caught in the middle' September 11 2013