Editors' pick: Originally published Dec. 1.
Gen X-ers are aging. Instead of debating what to do with their future, they're planning for retirement -- or at least trying to. While mourning the reality that Luke Perry (Dylan McKay from "90210") and Justine Bateman (Mallory Keaton from "Family Ties") are turning 50 this year, Gen X is busy trying to balance the budget as it often finds itself needing to support its parents and perhaps its children as well. This puts these Gen X-ers squarely in the middle of the "sandwich generation."
Pew Research Center defines the sandwich generation as adults "who have a living parent age 65 or older and are either raising a child under age 18 or supporting a grown child." The reality for this sandwich generation is that they have also become financial supporters. In fact, a recent study by TD Ameritrade found that one-fifth of Americans fall into this category, meaning that they provide financial assistance to a parent and/or child.
This survey found that 13% of Gen X-ers are financially supporting, on average, one or more adults. Although those who find themselves in this position say they are happy to make the sacrifices needed to help out, doing so puts a strain on finances, which can cause a ripple effect, eventually leading to delayed retirement.
So what can Gen X-ers do to put themselves in the best-possible position if they find themselves in this role? The first, and perhaps most important, thing is that people have to be honest with themselves. By and large, these Gen X-ers report that helping out their loved ones does not negatively affect them financially. Yet, doing so has led this group to hold an average of $22,000 in debt (outside of their mortgage) with more then half (56%) saying they have needed to borrow funds or withdraw from savings to cover expenses.