Episode 61 – How to Deal with the Stressors of the Sandwich Generation (Looking after kids and parents all at the same time)

How to Deal with the Stressors of the Sandwich Generation by Astra Financial

Ever heard of the Sandwich Generation? It refers to those who are in the position of looking after their elderly parents and their children. Maybe you’re creeping up to it, or perhaps you’re already there.

Either way, it’s not an easy position to be in, but let me tell you, there are things that you can do to lighten the load, such as…

  • Setting healthy boundaries around your time
  • Being open about your finances
  • Delegating tasks with family members

The list goes on!

More people are finding themselves in this situation, and I want to help relieve some of the stress. I’ve helped clients navigate this area, so I’m sharing my key takeaways on this week’s podcast. Listen here!


Show Notes:

Hey there, welcome back to Episode 61. 

Are you a part of the sandwich generation? Now, I’m creeping up to it. Not quite there yet, but one day down the road here, I’m going to be there. The sandwich generation is a term used, and apparently, it is an official term ‘cause I found it in the dictionary. You know, it must be real if it’s there’. It is a term meant to describe being caught in the middle of looking after our ageing parents and also at the same time looking after our own children. Now, whether that’s adult children or them just about to leave the house or teens, it doesn’t matter. It’s meant to describe supporting our parents and children financially, physically, or emotionally.

The number of sandwich generation members has been increasing dramatically. Statistics show that the financial burdens associated with being responsible for multiple generations are rising. It is not only our elderly parents that need our help. It’s our adult children. With more post-college youths coming home to live with parents or doing well, they go to school. There’s now estimates that almost 30% of 25 to 34-year-olds reside with their parents. Now, this is a little older. It’s a US stat, 2017. And so I’ve got to wonder if that’s even more now. Just knowing that, you know, going into recession right now, things are costing a lot more of the housing and real estate prices in Canada. You know, we’ve got kids living at home in our basement a lot longer than before.

Now, sprinkle in double duty of caring for our aging parents. That’s a lot on our minds. That could be a lot emotionally. It could be our actual physical time, and it’s going to start to possibly be our financial time as well. So I do have clients that have planned to retire, but the plan was sped up with the push to find more time, thinking, I really want to help care for my parents. And that was a theme that we saw going through COVID with nursing homes, and I did see that. 

I’m going to share – let me share a particular example that speaks to the sandwich generation. And that’s that pull at both ends. So I’ll give you a little about this situation. This client is planning on retiring and has done all the work. Meaning saved enough, we’ve gone through income scenarios, and we’ve actually been planning for probably more than a couple of years. But really homing in on it right now. We’ve completed everything that we need to around it, like that full, comprehensive financial plan. This person is ready anytime to retire. 

One of the retirement income scenarios that while I was kinda thinking about what we were going to talk about today is I was like, oh yeah, we did a scenario where one of the important pieces was wanting to include gifting 45,000 to each adult child to help with the purchase of a future home. One child needs it. And that’s what sparked it is that you know, this person is fully employed, great job, but just not quite at a level that can afford to buy a house in a big city. And so this amount would really help. 

The other one doesn’t need it. So the other adult child doesn’t really need it as much. But, in the spirit of fairness. And I know how that goes because it’s exactly the same in my house. What you do for one, you feel like you need to do for the other child. You want to be fair. But now, with a parent needing more and more emotional and physical care, this client wanted to show a scenario of retiring right now, right away, rather than waiting. If we include, so I’ll kind of give you a quick how it ends, how it looks. And the scenario is that if we include the adult child gifting of 45,000 to each kid, this client, it shows the projection shows that, you know, you really need to wait another 18 months before retiring to ensure that there’s enough saved up. ‘Cause, you’re using your money right now to help top up and save that cash amount to gift. 

So here’s the pickle right now that this person is in. Do you forfeit the gifting to adult children that could really use the help right now? You know, marriage, future children coming. But that means not retiring. Or, do you retire right now to help care for your parents? So here’s the dilemma. And this is where I’m thinking, that this was brilliant. I don’t know who termed it, but this is where that idea of a sandwich comes in. You know you got the middle, you’re squishing it, and this person is like, which one’s the right answer? What do I do? I really want to do both of those things. So we’re navigating that one. 

It can really be stressful to try and help on both ends. So, with so many stressors, the sandwich generation can often experience – you’ve got burnout, caregiver burnout, you got feelings of a kind of overwhelm depression, issues finding the time to be a good spouse, parent or person. I mean, when burnout happens, and you’re stressed out, maybe you’re not the best that you can be. Work is feeling more like a burden where there was once passion. Maybe there’s trouble at work. Not going very well and not having time for yourself. So, those are some of the issues that can happen with being pulled in multiple directions every day, when you’re thinking about every scenario. 

So it’s important to be aware of these flags. And, you know, I was thinking about this. This is a global concern across the world. Yeah, we have different countries. We’ve got different circumstances, but still, an international issue that isn’t going anywhere because there is a global factor of aging happening right now. 

So, yes, stressful. But let’s not forget, completely rewarding. My client’s outlook is so inspiring. It is teaching me about grace and love and flipping things into positive experiences. It’s such a positive conversation. You know, it’s easy for me to get my head into a spreadsheet and kind of get a little bit negative. Like, oh, the numbers just don’t match right now to do what you want to do. What are we going to do? And so we’re working that out, but I’ve really learned a lot from this person. And so the attitude is that there is giving and the ability to have a sense of satisfaction in helping a parent. Because my first reaction was you shouldn’t have to retire just to look after your parents. This person is looking at it as a gift, and both ends are a gift. Helping children, and then also helping an aging parent knowing that life’s not infinite in the sense of peace that occurs when we can care and give back. Wow. 

So I’m really learning a lot from this case here. I’ll let you know how it goes in the end, but we’re still figuring it out. So, I have a few things that you can do to help. If you’re finding yourself entering the sandwich generation, or maybe you’re already in there, and maybe you haven’t even realized. And I don’t know, that’s not a super common term, even though it’s in the dictionary now, but you might not know exactly where your, where the stresses were coming from. And it might be just from, you know, adult children needing you and also an elderly parent. 

So the first thing is really to set healthy boundaries around your time. If you feel like you need to be in multiple places at once, you need to set some fences around that and get clear about what you can and can’t do. And sometimes that’s gonna mean saying no. I talk about this in my office all the time. You’re on the plane. And in case of emergency, you have to put your own oxygen mask on before helping anyone else. We are no good to anybody on the floor, gasping for air. We can’t do anything from there. So that’s the first thing.

Second is to get your finances out in the open. And, you know, I was talking about the emotional struggle. But it’s also about knowing where your stand. Quantify and qualify. And it’s also about knowing where you stand and talking openly with your parent or parents and your young adult children about your financial situation. Explain that you need to be considering your own financial health and future while also thinking of them and trying to make it work. Setting limits. This is about relieving some of the stress or uncertainty about your financial role. 

And you might be surprised to learn that, you know, those adult children are going to be just fine without the help. And they actually would feel more guilty in taking that help if they knew that you had to work longer, you know, on a soul-sucking job. This isn’t the case with my client. But you just have to explore that and be out in the open about everything. And we’re not, you know, it’s not about digging up the skeletons out of the money closet. You don’t have to share every last penny, but you do have to start talking about where things are generally and where you stand and what the situations are. You’re going to gain some support by doing that. 

Make it a family affair. So the third thing is one of the key elements of taking care of yourself is willing to ask for help when you need it. And that’s going to be incoming to your family. Sometimes caregivers are so overwhelmed that they lose sight of the fact that there are loved ones around waiting to just be asked. They want to help. Engage your family members whenever possible, reach out to siblings and see if they can help. Family members from out of the area can often take on tasks from either email, phone you name it. They can also come for a visit and time a visit so that you can have a break as well if it’s with helping with an elderly parent. 

Delegate. So the next thing is to delegate and then delegate some more. That means sharing those responsibilities. Like I just said, by making it a family affair, but also taking off your own plate, some things. Can you, and this is, of course, I mean, looking at your once, you’ve talked about finances, you’ve quantified and qualified where you are. Can you take some of those things you hate off your own plate? Like I’m thinking for me, hmm, meal prep, house cleaning, yard work, you name it. And if you can’t afford to pay someone to do that, maybe you can ask help from family and friends, but it’s about delegating what you can. 

The other one is moving into, so this is if you’re moving into a caregiving role. The other piece of advice that I suggest is that you know what your parents’ priorities and wishes are for their care. Having conversations with them as early as possible, I mean like years in advance. If you don’t have years in advance and you haven’t been proactive about it, it’s never too late. So try and have those conversations right now. Lay out the expectations, see what they want so that you can help follow that. And make sure that you’re talking about it.

So lastly, I suggest is you really call in the troops. Support from friends to be an ear. But also your employers. So if you’re working right now, really check those employer benefits and call that in and see is there some resources? Are there – is there counseling if you’d like to, you know, have a third party, listen? Cause maybe a spouse or an adult child is tired of hearing about it. Go to someone else, get some great advice. Paid time off for caregiving. There are some benefits out there. So take a look at your employer benefits and surround yourself with great people and find that support. 

That’s it. I just really wanted to kind of share and bring to light recognizing these things if you’re there. And really biggest takeaway is finding some advice. So your financial planner as well will be able to point you in the right direction. 

If you have any questions, send me a note and until next week, take care.