Did you know that July is national “Sandwich Generation” month?
And not in the cold cuts and extra pickles kind of way. The Sandwich Generation is a term used to describe those who find themselves ‘sandwiched’ between two generations – providing financial care for family members in the generation above and below, while still having to find a way to care for themselves.
It’s clearly a name that lends itself to wordplay and jokes, but ‘The Sandwich Generation’ is also a serious topic that merits attention as projections for financial struggle and hardship become realities and people begin (or continue) to feel the pressure.
And though its name suggests a time limit, as people continue to live longer, and students continue to take on crushing debt at a young age, the term sandwich generation could very well morph into the sandwich nation.
It’s a very real possibility, and again – less appetizing than the name suggests. So as the structure for retirement (or lack thereof) rearranges, are we doing all we can to talk about the reality of multi-generational care?
How to Handle Sandwich Generation Issues
The truth is – the sandwich generation is a tough topic to broach. First and foremost – it’s an emotional topic.
Money, however impersonal it may seem in physical form, is also a core of heartfelt topics – especially when it comes to those close to you. Addressing an issue made up of the choices and outcomes of three separate generations can hit on the range of emotional nerves. Having to make unplanned sacrifices, or assume caregiving roles can be difficult beyond the financial aspect.
People caught in the sandwich generation have a variety of financial challenges, often ranging from making their monthly mortgage payments to paying off credit card debt to dealing with their own student loans.
While finger pointing and complaints can help relieve frustration, they can also muddle visions or solutions for a successful future.
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To help prevent tension, it’s important to look at what can be done now, rather than what should have been done in the past. It’s not about comparing what used to be, or what should be. It’s about looking at the facts, accepting the path ahead, and understanding how you can come to terms financially with what might be a more and more common reality.
That might mean having to sell Grandma and Grandpa's home so they can move in with you and your kids. Or it might mean considering a reverse mortgage on their property.
Of course it’s about taking hold of your financial future, but it’s also about taking hold of your financial present and looking at ways to help future generations navigate the terrain.
That’s why it’s so important to talk out the possibilities with your family members. Children are raised with the encouragement to forge a path for themselves.
With a social upbringing that favors independence and personal success – is it any wonder that people are overwhelmed when faced with the prospect of caring not one, but two generations as well as their own?
Personal financial independence may not translate effectively as those caregivers smack in the middle of two generations look towards retirement. Yes – taking care of your own financial needs is essential, but communicating with the others involved is critical.
In addition to talking it out with family, talk about it with others. The conversation has been covered in the news, it’s been sent out for discussion. But even still – the truth might not hit home until you’re already in the middle of it.
It goes beyond keeping up on the trends, and glancing at the news headlines. The sandwich generation and the challenges its members face are worthy topics of conversation. If the future is to be made up of more caregivers than before, then interacting with the community can be an invaluable way to get insight, find support and importantly – connect with others who may inspire you to take action within your own life.
More and more it’s becoming evident that the struggles of the sandwich generation aren’t just curveball but realities of the present, and potentially the future. While talking about it may not be the first step in the process, it’s a way to keep momentum and attention of a worthy and relevant topic.