Four Steps to Manage the After-Sandwich Generation Years

Beyond the "sandwich generation" is a multi-faceted, mid-generation danger zone that could put your retirement in jeopardy. Adviser Sandra Adams outlines four steps to help manage through this life phase.
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By Sandra D. Adams, CFP®

Planning for retirement in today’s world is no small feat. Those of us who are late baby boomers or early Gen Xers starting to get serious about planning for our next phase of life, face more challenges than did many of those who came before us.

Sandy Adams

Sandra Adams

Why do I say that? Because we are in what I call the “dangerous middle.” No, not just a “sandwich generation” like you’ve heard it called in the past, but a multi-faceted, mid-generation danger zone that could truly put our retirement in jeopardy financially, psychologically, emotionally and, yes, functionally, if we let it.

We are in line to help take care of parents and grandparents who are living longer and aging before our eyes. They will need our help navigating THEIR long life planning when it comes to health care and advocacy, care planning, where to live and downsizing, and potentially the financing of it all and/or help with handling their finances if they become unable to handle that on their own at some point. For some, this may or may not mean proving financial support to parents out of money meant for our retirement until alternative plans can be made. All of this not only takes time, but patience and emotional strength like we’ve never imagined.

We might also still be supporting adult children who are launching later in life. Particularly in the age of COVID-19, with a depressed economy and jobs at a minimum, we may find that our adult children are either taking longer than normal to finish school or are having trouble finding work and need our support longer. Many times, this means providing financial support while they can get on their feet and support themselves, and may delay our planned retirement if we don’t have the funds to support children and savings for our own retirement at the same time. In addition, it can be emotionally draining on the family to have adult children at home, especially if we had planned to have an “empty nest” at this stage in life.

In addition to children, you could be in a family that is supporting grandchildren or even great grandchildren along with adult children. This is the “dangerous middle” exemplified! Not only might you have extra financial obligations for your extended family, but you might also have additional caregiving duties, need to help with education, transportation, discipline, and a plethora of other obligations that you thought you were certainly done with at this stage in your life — at least on an every day basis. And while this might be a bit stressful to your finances and putting you behind on your retirement goals, it might also be a bit stressful to you personally.

For many, this multi-layered, multi-faceted, “dangerous middle” has them overwhelmed, over-stressed, and struggling to catch up on their retirement savings. Ironically, due to the added tension and strain that these family situations put them in, they are even more in need of retirement than most. Yet, because they are likely to have extra mouths to feed and support for years to come, it may be unlikely that they can retire on time. 

If you find yourself in the “dangerous middle,” here are four action steps you can take to keep yourself on track for retirement:

Have the difficult conversations. This may take some preparing for and you may want to have some coaching if this is not your strong suit. Having difficult conversations with family members, especially those who you feel might be taking advantage of your kindness, is a must.

It is a wonderful gesture to be supportive of family members who are struggling, but at some point, a “gentle nudge” at the very least may be necessary to help them get going to help themselves. Whether that is offering to help review a resume or connect them to resources for job searchers.

At some point, asking for money for rent or help with bills if they are living with you would not be too much to ask and might just be the “push” they need to get going.

Use outside resources. Especially when it comes to the assistance of parents and grandparents, ask for help. For most, planning for the aging process is unchartered territory. There are professional experts in your community (for-profit and not-for-profit) that are ready to assist you.

There are resources for everything from legal to financial, to health care and care management, transportation and socialization, meals, downsizing and moving management, literally anything you can think of! The population is aging and the business community has been preparing to meet the demand. If you can think of it, it is likely there is someone out there that has a business to meet your need!

Pay yourself first. If at all possible, continue to keep scheduled retirement account/savings payments, even if you have additional expenses due to your added family obligations. Review your budget and see what other discretionary expenses can get cut before the retirement savings need to get cut. Also, as above, if family members are able to contribute to the family household while they are staying with you, even a small amount, they should do so to help out.

Work with a financial advisor to make sure you are staying on track. For many, it is easy to know what they NEED to do to reach their retirement goal, but making sure they actually DO those things on an annual basis, especially if they are in the “dangerous middle,” is quite another.

Having someone as your accountability partner — to make sure you are aware of all of the best opportunities and that you follow through on taking advantage of them each and every year is the responsibility of your financial advisor. He or she is someone that is there to look out for your best interests, to help guide you to make the best decisions, and to help make sure you are always standing up for yourself and staying true to your goals. A financial advisor can be a great decision-making partner when it comes to staying on the path to retirement.

Are you in the “dangerous middle?” The four action steps above can be a great guide to help you stay on track for your retirement, even if you feel yourself being pulled into the trap of multi-layered, multi-faceted family obligations. With focus, discipline, resources, and the help of a financial advisor, it is possible to stay on track for retirement.

About the author: Sandra D. Adams, CFP®

Sandra D. Adams, CFP®, can be reached at 248-948-7900, Center for Financial Planning, Inc., 24800 Denso Drive, Ste. 300, Southfield, MI 48033. Securities offered through Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisory services offered through Center for Financial Planning, Inc. Center for Financial Planning, Inc. is not a registered broker/dealer and is independent of Raymond James Financial Services.

Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, CFP® (with plaque design) and CFP® (with flame design) in the U.S., which it awards to individuals who successfully complete the CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements.

Any opinions are those of Sandra D. Adams and not necessarily those of Raymond James.


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