Here’s a fun Gen eXercise: imagine Molly Ringwald’s character Andie in Pretty in Pink, today.
She’s 51, married to Duckie (what, you thought Blane would last?) and has a couple of teens. She still lives with her dad, Jack — although technically, he lives with her.
Easy to picture, because two-thirds of us have dependent children, and about half have a parent over 65. We’re the Sandwich Generation, tasked with supporting our aging folks and growing kids, all while working full-time.
Our parents are living longer. Our kids tend to boomerang home after graduating college. A year of assisted living is about the same as annual tuition at a private university.
Thing is, we don’t have to get squeezed from all sides. It just takes cutting through the nonsense so we can care for others without killing ourselves in the process.
Talk about cash money (dollar bills, y’all)
With all apologies to the O’Jays, the way out is to have honest conversations about money with loved ones, early and often. According to a survey by Legacy Navigator, two-thirds of us have no clue as to how much money is in our parents’ bank account.
Feel free to extrapolate: the 2013 US Census says the average American age 65+ has around $800 in the bank. Yikes.
It’s not that we resent the idea of helping our parents. According to Pew Research, two-thirds of us feel responsible to help mom and dad financially, while only about half of us feel the need to do the same for a grown child.
It’s time to grow up ourselves and stop viewing tough financial conversations as awkward. It’s fair to talk to your parents about things like estate plans, long-term insurance, and managed care wishes.
And when it comes to your grown children, ask that they contribute by paying rent, buying groceries, or helping with the elder family members. You can help them out while also instilling a sense of self sufficiency.
Put your oxygen mask on first before assisting others
Self-care is imperative as you juggle caring for your kids and your parents. And it’s not just about spa days or wine downs. For peace of mind, put planning for your future financial stability first.
This may sound easier said than done, but there are more employers offering flexible schedules, caregiver leave and assistance with resources and counseling services. And consider investing in a retirement account like a Roth IRA, where future withdrawals are tax-free.
Don’t feel stuck between professional and personal obligations, guilt and burden. Remember, you’re the meat in the sandwich, and you can decide how it all stacks up.