The Sandwich Generation: Tips on caring for kids and aging parents

No Debt No Sweat! 

Financial Seminar Ministry

If you’re between thirty-five and fifty-five years old, you are part of the Sandwich Generation. 

“What’s that?” You ask. 

It’s a relatively new phenomenon. These are the modern day adults who are being squeezed from both sides: dealing with children and aging parents. 

If you identify with this, let me share a few thoughts that you may find helpful in managing your time, money, and the demands being placed on you.

1. Don’t let the inmates run the asylum!  It is almost always a mistake to become a crutch to our children. But I see good parents doing it all the time. Sooner or later, kids should grow up and leave. 

It is good for all parents to set boundaries and draw lines. There are always a million excuses for doing the wrong thing. But it’s important to remember that softness and love are not always the same thing. Assuming normal health and intelligence, the most loving thing a parent can do is raise Godly, responsible, self-reliant kids who become contributors rather than societal mooches.

2. Regarding our parents, it is vital to open the lines of communication early. While discussing personal money issues is still taboo with some people from the Great Generation era, it is vital that we do it. 

In my experience, the healthiest financial situations are usually in homes where the Sandwich Generation sits down early with the Greatest Generation and asks the hard questions with an attitude of love and deference.  

This may take some time. There may be some old wounds that have to heal first. Some apologies may be in place. Showing appropriate respect is key here. Do whatever is appropriate to open lines of communication. Then, discuss the toughies: 

• How much do you have saved? And who is it with?  (I can’t over emphasis the importance of this one. Elderly people tend to be far too trusting. It might be wise for you to personally go with your parents and meet their advisor. Ask the hard questions — do a true due diligence in their behalf.  If the advisor becomes offended or defensive, consider that to be a red flag.)

• What insurance coverage do you have?  If they have life insurance, learn all about it. If they don’t have good long-term care coverage—consider it. Be sure their homeowners and Medicare supplemental coverages are paid and proper for their needs. Look for insurance that they may be paying for needlessly. For instance, if they no longer are driving, why keep paying for car insurance?

3. Don’t fall into the trap of depleting your own retirement fund to care for your parents. Obviously, this has to be considered on a case-to-case basis, but in general it can make more problems than it solves. 

4. Agree with your parents that they will talk with you before making any major purchases. 

5. Select a designated caregiver. Ideally this is one of the kids. But be cautious and thoughtful as to how you do this. Select the person with the greatest heart of mercy. Check your ego at the screen door, and accept that your parents may prefer one sibling over another for this task. Hopefully, this is the child who lives closest to the parents. 

Also, if you assign one sibling the task of running point—remember that doesn’t relieve the other siblings of their responsibilities. It only means that responsibilities may shift somewhat. 

6. Lastly, prepare emotionally and financially for the two last moves.  In many cases there will come a time when mom or dad need more care than you can give them in their own home. Decide early what your family preferences are. Will they live with a child or in long-term care?

And about that final move -- this one will be tough, ask how they would like their funerals to be treated. 

Ultimately, remember that caring for your parents is part of the Scriptural mandate to honor your father and your mother (Exodus 20: 12). Your sacrifices will not go unnoticed by our Heavenly Father.

Steve Diggs is the founder of six businesses, a radio/TV host, and best selling author. He speaks on Godly Leadership, Christian Money Management (www.NDNS.org) and Christ-Centers Life Skills (www.RetoolAndRefuel.com.)Reprinted with permission.