We all love a good sandwich don’t we? There is bread and some kind of filling, maybe some lettuce and even a piece of cheese. So yummy. Well there are sandwiches and then there are sandwiches. So many of us baby boomers are members of the “sandwich generation”. We have our aging parents that we are having to become more and more involved in their day to day lives and care. Then we have our children. It is very true that it doesn’t matter what age they get to be, we still worry about them. And we baby boomers are right in the middle of all this. Aging parents on one side and our children on the other side. This is partly due to the fact that people are living much longer than in the past and may require expensive nursing care for a lot longer time. Our children struggle to pay for very expensive educations and then find good stable employment, never mind trying to purchase a house in today’s super expensive market. Perfect storm kind of situation.
I consider myself very lucky. I know that some of my friends and peers have it much much harder than I and are really struggling with this issue. They struggle to spend time helping out their parent or parents and struggle financially to help children with their educations and perhaps housing expenses and still save for their own retirements. My parents are now 86 and 88 and are both doing excellent. They still live in their own place. They did sell their house a few years ago when the yard got to be a bit much. They live in a patio home now where all the yard work is taken care of. They have a regular cleaning lady that comes and vacuums and washes floors etc. But she only comes every 2 weeks. They are managing quite well other than that. They both still drive and do their own shopping and cooking and errands. They don’t drive too far anymore. Just their regular route to do their shopping. If they have to go anywhere out of town, we take them. Other than a few chores around the house that my husband helps with, we haven’t had to get too involved. I don’t expect this to last forever, at some point they will need us and of course we will be there. We are hoping that as time goes by they could always increase the cleaning lady’s time and get some home care services if they are ever required. This could allow them to stay in their own home as long as they want to. These two are as we speak on a 2 week trip to Ontario. So we are very lucky for sure.
We are also very lucky with our children. One is happily married with 2 children and the other one is single and lives close by to us and has a good job and supports herself. We did help them buy houses by gifting some down payment but really not a lot. They have done it mostly on their own. We did help them with helping to pay for their educations but they both contributed as well. But even still you can’t stop worrying. Our younger daughter has some life long health issues that she deals with. We will always worry about her for sure. The older daughter’s spouse is in the oil and gas industry and we all know about all the problems there. But so far so good. Then the grandchildren come along and we worry about them too. But that goes with the territory as they say. We feel so fortunate that both of our children have their “stuff” together and are self sufficient and doing well in their lives and careers. I realize that not all people in my age group have it as good as I do when it comes to this topic. For some it is a struggle every day.
If you are one of the many baby boomers dealing with being in the middle of a sandwich, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Make sure you are looking after yourself too. You are no good to anyone if you don’t look after you.
- Do look into what resources are out there to help. There are home care services available, meals on wheels, etc. You can’t do it all yourself. Seek out professionals
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t be a martyr.
- The time will come when you will need to know about finances of the people you are caring for. Pick the right time and have a conversation. If you all of a sudden have to take care of paying bills etc, you will need to know.
- Ask others dealing with a similar situation how they deal. Their experiences may help you learn to cope.
- If you are caring for elderly family members, make sure you are clear with what their wishes are in the event they cannot speak for themselves.
- Help out your kids financially if it is required, sure. But make sure you don’t get taken advantage of. They need to learn how to be self sufficient. This is a really hard one. Seek help with whatever is hampering them from being able to be financially independent. Don’t just throw money at them. If they are struggling to be able to move out of your home, make sure to set a target date with them. Having a date to shoot for will help them with their planning and savings programs so that they can move on.
- If you have grown children living with you while they are trying to save enough to move out, make sure you lay down what the rules are. There is nothing worse than coming home from work and all their laundry is in the machines or the kitchen is a mess. Be firm on this one.
There is no right or wrong way to deal with this. Everyone’s situation is unique. Follow your instincts for sure as in most cases our instincts are right but at the same time don’t be afraid to accept help. Also don’t suffer in silence, talk to your family and siblings who may not be totally aware of all the challenges.
But we do as generations before us did, we look after each other and are happy to do so. Let’s try to find a balance though so that all our needs are met and we can enjoy our retirement.