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Juggling Responsibilities in the Sandwich Generation

Being a parent is a big job. Caring for aging parents is, too. For the sandwich generation, juggling the responsibilities of both, often on top of working full time, can feel overwhelming. These tips help make it easier.

Plan Ahead

Saving for the future takes on a whole new meaning when you’ve got college, elder care facilities and retirement all looming around the same time. By planning early, you help make things easier when those big expenses do come up.

  • Start saving for college as soon as possible
  • Control your debt. Installment debt such as car payments and college loans should be no more than 20% of your take-home pay
  • Frequently review your financial goals and make adjustments as necessary
  • Take advantage of tax-deferred retirement plans and employer matching to the maximum dollar amount you’re able
  • Encourage your children to have realistic expectations for college funds and suggest ways they can find other sources (i.e., grants, loans, scholarships, work-study, etc.)
  • Talk to your parents about any financial plans they’ve made
  • Get professional advice 

Caring for Parents Who Live Out of Town

Being far away from your parents can make caring for them even more challenging. Daily phone calls can be both time-consuming and frustrating as you’re relying on their ability to communicate about what’s going on. Traveling to them may be both time-consuming and costly.

  • Involve your siblings, if any
  • Consider hiring an Aging Life Care Professional (geriatric care manager) to help oversee everything
  • Look for and contact community resources in their area
  • Video calls can help you, and your kids feel connected to your parent(s) and also give you a better idea of what’s going on

Caring for Parents Who Live With You

You may decide it’s best for everyone for your parent(s) to move in with you. If that’s the case:

  • Be clear about your expectations in advance – they will want to feel like they’re a part of the household and take on some responsibilities
  • Your parent(s) will want their own room and some privacy
  • Connect your parents with local organizations so they can have some community involvement
  • Have other family members help out, so you get a break when needed
  • Understand your kids are adjusting too. Talk about the pros and cons of having their grandparents there. Ask them to take responsibility for chores

Balancing the Needs of Your Children

Whether they tell you or not, having your parent(s) in the house may be upsetting them more than you think. Teenagers often need more attention and feel they’re getting less. To help achieve some balance:

  • Tell them what changes to expect and fully answer any questions they have
  • Talk about their college plans and how they can help fund a more expensive school (i.e., after-school job, scholarships, loans, etc.)
  • Avoid taking money out of your retirement fund for college – your kids can pay off loans with their future salaries; your pension is all you’ll have
  • If you have adult children who’ve returned home (boomerang), share your expectations with them, including an expected departure date if necessary
  • Remember your first duty is to your kids

Do you have other tips for juggling responsibilities in the sandwich generation? Share them in the comments!

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