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Are You the Bread or the Peanut Butter?

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I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination. ~ J. Dean

By now, there is a good chance you’ve heard the term “sandwich generation” or you’ve noticed it; nearly half of us in our 40’s and 50’s have parents over the age of 65. Add to that the responsibilities of raising younger children or financially supporting children over 18, and you’ve got the Sandwich group. And, here’s a kicker for you; according to the Pew Center for Research, about 1 in 7 are providing financially for both a child and a parent. How you fit into this group is likely going to be unique to your family; perhaps you’re a blended family and the older children are from your partner’s previous relationship or perhaps you don’t have children but do have older parents. Any way you slice this sandwich we’re talking about some pitfalls for stress.

What to do?

I’m not about to offer up hardcore financial planning advice but here’s what I feel comfortable saying – if you don’t take care of yourself financially there will be little chance of you being able to assist anyone else. Each of us has our own priorities around how to spend our money and where we choose to share it. If you’re still working and looking to put away for your retirement now is not the time to stop doing that. If there is a need to support or assist someone else financially, it might be wise to offer only what you can afford right now as well as looking more long term.

Adult children (and that’s for you to decide what age that is after about the age of 21 or so) who are able to work, are not disabled in some way, ought to be working at a job that can support them. Is this hard? Yep. Does it perhaps require they do something other than their dream job? Likely. This doesn’t translate to, “leave them out in the streets” but it does mean that a second hand couch or not the latest clothing might be in their immediate future. This would also be an excellent opportunity to help young adults learn decision-making skills. If they are struggling with a disability, then helping them file the paperwork for the support or training they need would be a huge piece of assistance.

Older parents are a rocking chair of a different color. Again, how you choose to spend your time and resources is your call, but it might be handy to make sure your decisions are based on the here and now. What are you capable of? What is reasonable? If your parent lives halfway on the other side of the world can you be there every weekend to help with chores? And if you’ve just said ‘yes’ to that, then you’re either a multimillionaire and/or have a private jet available to you ~ forget about jet-lag issues!

In the weeks ahead we’re going to be addressing some of the Sandwich issues more closely; how to make choices around where to put your emotional and physical time, what it means to support an aging family member, some common pitfalls we all face and some unexpected challenges that might surface. Regardless of the age or stage of life you’re in right now, Sandwich time could be around the corner for you. I want to remind you that taking care of yourself, making decisions carefully and as fully prepared as possible is one of the best possible first steps you can take.

Wishing you all the best for the week ahead!

~ Lisa

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