Stuck in the Middle with You…and You: Tackling the Financial Strains of the Sandwich Generation

As much as they may want it to be, the sandwich generation isn’t so called because of their love of deli delights. Rather, this refers to people of this generation who are sandwiched between caring for their children as well as their aging parents.

As one would expect, this puts a significant financial burden on this generation, with having to care for themselves, their children and their parents all at once. Since July is Sandwich Generation Month, here are a few ways you can approach the topic with your clients who may be stuck in the middle of this unique financial predicament.

Pressure from Both Sides

How can you, as an advisor, best help your clients who are part of the sandwich generation? It’s a tough situation they’re in, since finances aren’t the only consideration here. This is a family matter, so it must be handled with care and sensitivity in addition to a no-nonsense financial approach. A fine line must be walked, with the goal of helping your client make sure they are set up for their own success and comfort — financially and mentally.

How Much Are Your Clients Juggling?

The scenarios someone in the sandwich generation may find themselves in could vary greatly. Maybe their children are too young to move out yet while their parents have encountered serious health or financial issues. Maybe their grown children just graduated from college and had to move back while looking for employment, just as your client’s parents are starting to require more medical care and assistance with everyday living. 

Or perhaps your client’s children were on the cusp of moving out when the pandemic hit, which halted their progress, while at the same time their own parents began needing to be chauffeured since they can no longer drive.

We won’t go over all possibilities, because they are nearly limitless. What any of them will likely mean, however, is an increase in expenses.

Some of those expenses could include higher electric and utility bills to account for the additional household members, higher food bills for the same reason, gas money or airfare to check on aging parents, money for pet care, general financial aid to the children or parents (or both) and more. And that’s all in addition to their own bills and responsibilities.

These added costs may not have been factored into your clients’ budget and could derail their retirement plans, so they may turn to you for help getting their retirement back on track.

Helping Your Clients Find Balance

As with just about everything else in life, balance is key. Your clients need to find and retain a balance that works for their situation, allowing them to not cut themselves off from the rest of their families but not drain their own expenses and be left with nothing, either.

One of the first suggestions to offer is to not overcommit with financial resources or time. Part of this means them knowing when it’s time to move on or at least make some significant changes. While they don’t want to be too harsh, at some point their grown children need to move out. That should be encouraged, and maybe your clients can still offer their children assistance with some of the moving costs to soften the blow.

As for their aging parents, there are ways to remain supportive without sacrificing everything. For parents of clients who need more health care as they age, could Medicaid be the answer? What sorts of savings do they have? Is there a Health Savings Account they can tap into for some medical expenses? They may have leaned on your client for financial assistance because it was convenient — and skipped looking elsewhere as a result.

There may be some tough conversations your clients will have with their families in order to get this all figured out, but they cannot forget about themselves. The old saying of not being able to fill someone else’s cup if your own is empty holds true here. Plus, your clients worked hard for their money and deserve the reward of a comfortable retirement.

Ask your clients about their other financial situations. Do they have a 401(k) or similar retirement plan offered through their employer? Do they have HSAs to help with their own medical costs? They’re aging too, so they’ll have to be prepared to handle their own medical expenses.

The bottom line is that your clients can’t forget about themselves. It’s noble to want to aid their children and their parents, and they can still find ways to help them. But they shouldn’t be sacrificing their own future in the process.

Navigating Emotionally Charged Financial Situations

Family subjects like this can be loaded with emotions, which could cause irrational or destructive financial behaviors. We have resources to assist you with these scenarios. Click below to access our Behavioral Finance Advice tools for more information.


Marshall Heitzman
Written by: Marshall Heitzman, CFP®, ChFC, FLMI, CPCU, BFA™

Marshall is TruStage's Advanced Planning Expert and has more than 25 years of experience in the insurance and financial services industry. He consults Financial Professionals on advanced retirement planning concepts for retirement and wealth management clients.

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