Tough Choices For Sandwich Generation: Supporting Children and Senior Parents

Tough Choices For Sandwich Generation: Supporting Children and Senior Parents

Posted on July 22, 2014 by ElderCare Resources in Blog, Caregiver Education, Financial Services, Independent Living, Long Term Care Information

Members of the sandwich generation are facing the biggest squeeze of their life

The sandwich generation describes a segment of society that not only has a parent 65 or older, but is also supporting children 18-and-under. These individuals face the challenge of financially and emotionally bolstering their parents and children at the same time, a strain that if not carefully planned can be devastating.

According to the Pew Research Center, nearly half of adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent over 65 and are raising a young child or supporting a grown child financially. Today’s crop of sandwiched family members faces more pressure than ever. Middle-aged Americans can prepare themselves for the challenges ahead by taking care of the two most financially draining aspects of aging and raising children: long-term care and paying for college.

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As the Baby Boom generation reaches 65, more seniors will live longer lives and require more medical assistance. According to the U.S. Department of Health, 70 percent of seniors will require some type of long-term care. In the mid-20th century, families had more children to share the responsibility and America had more workers paying for the retirement benefits of their elders. On average, the American life expectancy didn’t call for a plan to care for seniors 15 to 20 years into retirement.

On the flip side, today’s young adults face the most dire employment scenario in recent memory—in 2010 the number of employed young adults hit its lowest point since data collection began in 1949. According to the College Board, the average cost of a year of college education for 2013 to 2014 was $30,094 for private school, $8,893 for in-state public college fees, and $22,203 for out-of-state public university bills.

“For many people in the sandwich generation, it’s not the inherent strain of both, but their unwillingness to make important choices,” says Paul Carroll, founder of Efficient Wealth Management in The Woodlands, Tex. Carroll’s boutique practice handles investment consulting, advanced planning and expert relationship management for clients. “Are you willing to talk to your parents? Talk to your children? The truth of the matter is, we are the problem.”

Related: Tips For Protecting Family In Long-term Care

Knowing that 70 percent of seniors will need long-term care should make it easy to spur a discussion on long-term care insurance. Unfortunately, with the American birth rate down to an all-time low of 1.86 births per woman, individuals don’t always have siblings who are able or willing to help with the tough decisions regarding Mom and Dad’s health care as they age. With the limitations on public health-care coverage, Carroll suggests taking out long-term care insurance for a parent if they can’t do it themselves. “It doesn’t seem fair, but if you know you’re going to pay for your parents, work something out. Say, ‘guys, can we split the cost?’ Long-term care can wipe you out. It’s pretty bad how devastating it can be.”

Long-term care costs vary wildly, but for about $1,500 a year, long-term care insurance can shield your family from the enormous medical bills, or the horror stories of nursing-home facilities that rely on public payments alone. The American Association for Long Term Care Insurance estimates that about 10 million Americans have long-term care insurance policies. The Department of Health and Human Services estimates just one months’ care in a private room in a nursing home to average $6,965. There are a lot of Americans risking extreme medical bills of their aging parents.

Related: Dilemma of Providing Care for Aging Parents

Similarly, a frank talk about college expectations can help middle-class middle agers from draining their savings and ruining their retirement prospects. Parents who tap their own retirement accounts and strain their financial health to the max to put their kids through college are jeopardizing their family’s future down the road. While loans exist for college, there is no similar financial help for retirement.

Carroll urges austerity and common sense when it comes to what is fundamentally an educational, not lifestyle choice. “If you give your child an expensive education you can’t afford for four years, you will leave them with the job of taking care of you for 10 to 15 years. You’re creating a problem for them by taking care of another,” Carroll explains. “These are not mean decisions. You’re not selfish. For middle class Americans, the decision to pay 100 percent of their kids’ education is a luxury choice they will pay for the rest of their life.”

For members of the current sandwich generation it will take personal restraint and responsibility to get out of the squeeze in good financial health.

Published: The Paper

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