It may feel strange and uncomfortable to you, the Sandwich Generation is not a new concept. The term has existed since the 1980s and refers to middle-aged people who are supporting their children (who may also be adults) and their ageing parents.
What is a relatively new concept is the generation of kids who can’t afford to live independently and end up staying with their parents well into their 30s – sometimes called the Boomerang Generation. Having multiple generations living under one roof is becoming common in Australia. The daughter or daughter-in-law are so often the one who steps up to the plate.
My mum has lived with me for years and we love it. With a health issue here and there you see how very quickly things change. No big deal, right? Well, this year the other slice of bread got slapped on the ‘me’ sandwich when my great-nephew began spending a lot of time with us too. I love having him at home, but my routine included school runs, sports, groceries, appointments and so on – and work!
I consider myself lucky to have these two beautiful people whom I love dearly living with me, however reduced time at the office means it impacts the earning capacity. Keeping my finances on track is a matter of smart planning and strategy.
We hear it on planes all the time: put on your own oxygen mask before helping others – and finances are no different. When sandwiched between two generations who both need your help, the most important first step is to look after yourself.
Are your personal finances in order? Do you have a financial plan and spending plan? Are there any debts you’re ignoring? If you need to, take the time to meet with a financial adviser and develop a roadmap to help you stay on track.
Next, are you OK? The mental and emotional strain of caring for others is significant, especially if they’re unwell. Be sure to schedule time for yourself to relax and unwind. Take a walk, watch a movie or see some friends. You might also benefit from professional counselling. Taking care of yourself means you’re better equipped to help others.
To navigate these new financial challenges, you need to understand what you’re dealing with. If you’re responsible for your parent’s finances, get an understanding of their assets, expenses and debts. Do they have savings, property, superannuation or any other investments? Are they eligible to receive a pension? Will they need to move into residential aged care at some point?
A financial adviser can help you work through this to understand exactly where you stand, and enable you to make informed decisions. If you’re feeling the pinch personally, it’s a great idea to have a closer look at your own finances and get control over what you can. Planning ahead is key.
Is your superannuation in good shape? Can you give it a boost through top-up options or co-contributions? Does your parent have insurance that can be claimed to fund you as a carer? Does your own income protection insurance cover you to get some mental health care or time off to be a carer?
Seek whatever government assistance is available to you, such as Centrelink and the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). This can get complicated, so mentally prepare yourself.
As to those Boomerang Generation kids hogging the wi-fi, they’ll need a plan too. Buying a first home is truly tough today, and even renting can be tough. As a parent your job is to prepare your kids for the wild. Set appropriate boundaries so you aren’t hindering their development and ultimate independence. Guide them – don’t do it for them. Make them contribute.
I often say there should be tax breaks for people like myself who are trying to take care of others while supporting themselves but are ineligible for financial support – especially since we’re saving the government precious dollars just by caring for those we love. But until a revolutionary solution comes along, here we are, stuck in the middle.
Caring for loved ones is a long-term commitment that can be challenging, but also incredibly rewarding. We only live once. Understanding the issues and making plans early on will allow you to enjoy these precious years without burning out or burning a hole in your pocket
The Carousel would like to thank Helen Baker for this article.
Helen Baker is a licenced Australian financial adviser and author of two books: One Your Own Two Feet – Steady Steps to Women’s Financial Independence and On Your Own Two Feet Divorce – Your Survive and Thrive Financial Guide. Helen is among the 1% of financial planners who holds a master’s degree in the field. Find out more at www.onyourowntwofeet.com.au