Are You the Meat of the Financial Sandwich?

Today, many 40- and 50-year-olds are finding themselves stuck between two generations that rely on their financial assistance. So how can you survive the middle without getting squeezed?

Here’s how it should work: Your parents support you financially until you’re able to support yourself. Once you work your way through medical school, you pay off any student loan debt, and maybe you have some kids of your own. You support your children until they enter the working phase of their career. Your parents are healthy and financially secure, and they’re terrific grandparents to boot.

Here’s how if often works: If you’re in your 40s or early 50s, you are simultaneously caring for your own children and your aging parents, and likely providing some financial assistance to both. You’re the meat of the sandwich, caught between two generations. This can put a strain on planning for your financial future. In two parts, let’s look at a few ways to navigate this...pickle.

Make Sure Everyone Is on the Same Page

It can be tough to talk finances with family members, both young and old. But setting expectations for how much financial support you’re willing to provide, and then following through with your stated plan, will allow you to provide support without sacrificing your retirement savings or any other financial goals you have. Your children may think that because you’re a doctor, your income source is unlimited. Your parents may believe you’re financially set and can take extra measures to make sure they’re comfortable and secure. While you don’t have to go into the specifics of your salary and expenses, make sure everyone realizes that you’re stretched in multiple directions, and that saving for your own retirement must be a priority.

Make Sure Everyone Is Doing Their Part

Are your parents taking advantage of all the financial resources they have? Do they have a financial advisor and a realistic view of their monthly expenses versus their income? Are they drawing enough from retirement accounts, and continuing to seek income through part-time work, investment vehicles such as annuities, and other opportunities?

If your children are old enough, have they considered a part-time job? Every little bit of income counts, even if it’s just a summer job pouring coffee. Perhaps that income is enough to secure a semester or two of college books, or spending cash that doesn’t then have to come out of your monthly budget.

In part 2, we’ll look at a couple of sneaky aspects of being caught in the financial middle, and how best to prepare for them.