Saving for financial goals such as retirement and buying a house is hard enough. The so-called “sandwich generation” has the added struggle of trying to manage priorities: caring for aging parents while saving for their own goals.
The sandwich generation is usually defined as adults in their 40s and 50s who find themselves sandwiched between taking care of aging parents and younger children. It’s not uncommon for Americans in this group to be providing financial support to both an aging parent and a child.
As a financial adviser, I’ve helped clients navigate an array of life situations that are challenging to juggle all at once. Here are some steps you can take to prioritize and manage competing goals, find helpful resources and work to secure your own future.
Develop and Implement a Strategy
If you haven’t already, begin by talking with your family. If you have multiple goals, keep in mind it’s OK to focus on one at a time.
Consider that Americans need to create a retirement paycheck that will last 30 years or more, and for most, Social Security benefits won’t be enough. Building a retirement nest egg now is the most important goal for many people, so it’s a good place to start. Other goals, such as college savings for children or buying a house, can be secondary.
For the Employed
If you work for a large employer, make sure you are maximizing your health and retirement benefits.
If your employer offers a company-sponsored retirement plan such as a 401(k), you should take full advantage of any company match. Otherwise you’re leaving free money on the table. Keep in mind that you need to stay with that employer for a certain amount of time to access or retain those benefits — and carefully consider those benefits once you leave.
It’s worth exploring all the perks available to you, such as Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), which provide tax advantages for daycare expenses, or pet insurance, which can be an affordable way to manage hefty emergency vet bills.
If your employer offers a Health Savings Account, consider socking away funds toward your near- and long-term health care costs. When used for qualified health care expenses, HSAs offer a tremendous triple-tax free benefit, and can be carried with you if you leave your current employer. Plus, some employers even offer a match — that’s more free money for you and your family.
If your employer doesn’t offer a retirement plan such as a 401(k) or 403(b), you should set up a retirement fund such as a Traditional IRA or Roth IRA for yourself. In fact, it’s a good idea to fund an IRA in addition to your employer-sponsored plan.
Gone are the days when you can rely on your employer to secure your retirement. The responsibility is on you to save, so it’s important to not delay, even if you start small. For example, a 21-year-old who commits to maximizing his or her Roth IRA each year assuming a 6% rate of return would wind up with more than $1.5 million by age 66.
For the Self-Employed
If you’re self-employed, or work for a small company with limited benefits offerings, it’s important that you set enough aside on your own in a qualified retirement plan that’s appropriate for you, such as a SEP IRA or Individual 401(k).
If you are enrolled in a high deductible health plan, you also can take advantage of a Health Savings Account. And if you are looking for ways to simplify your life, consider outsourcing your HR-type services to a professional employer organization, or PEO.
It’s important to include a team of advisers in your circle such as a CPA, attorney and financial advisor, to ensure you’re maximizing your benefits and meeting your tax requirements.
Diversify Your Income Stream
You may have heard about diversifying your investments, but have you considered diversifying your income stream? Consider if one spouse is in a stable yet lower-paying corporate job with good benefits, does it make sense for the other spouse to become self-employed in exchange for potentially higher income?
It’s also a good idea to consider diversifying your industries. Questions to ask: Does it make sense to have one person work in a different field or take on a different role, based on economic demand of jobs? Can one of you take on a second job?
For Single Parents
If you are single, it’s important to reach out to other family members or seek out community resources and networking groups for support.
Maximizing your career outlook and benefits, as well as making a career change to improve your economic footing, is a big step and it’s important to ask for help.
For Job Changers/ Career Seekers
Considering a job change or updating your skills for a career change? Not sure where to start?
Research the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook.
Need inspiration? Pick up a classic career guidance book, “What Color is My Parachute?”
Talk to Your Kids About Money
It’s never too early (or late!) to talk to your kids about money.
12 & Under
Set up three small containers or mason jars and together, label them “Save,” “Spend,” and “Give.” Talk to your kids about the different buckets of money and encourage them to participate in the discussion.
The conversation can be specific, such as how to allocate extra birthday money or how they want to allocate their allowance. Or it can be a family discussion of how extra funds are spent as a family at the end of each month.
You may find that you are delightfully surprised at how conversations can evolve when kids take an active role in understanding where their dollars go, no matter the age. Don’t be afraid to include younger kids – even preschoolers understand this concept on some level.
Hone your teenagers’ strengths and help them build skills that empower them to make money in the future.
For example, consider enrolling your animal-loving teens in a dog obedience training academy for dog trainers. Does your teen like computers? Maybe they can teach their older neighbors how to use a computer for an hourly rate.
It’s OK to let your teen take initiative and get creative. My neighbor’s teen son made more than $600 in three weeks detailing cars in our neighborhood during the initial COVID-19 quarantine.
While you don’t have to share every detail of your financial picture with your adult children, it’s OK to share with them where you are financially. Even if you can afford it, resist the urge to give them a handout.
Instead, allocate a reasonable amount toward education and necessities. It may seem like common sense, but remember that your role is to guide them, not solve their problems, financial or otherwise.
It’s important not to dip into your nest egg to help with student loans, fancy cars or go overboard on a big wedding.
At my firm, we hear from clients who want to dip into their retirement funds to pay for lavish expenses for their children. While understandable, it’s a financial mistake that could take decades or more to recover from.
It’s worth remembering: When parents are retired comfortably, their children will thank them for not coming to them for money.
Talk to Your Parents and Set Boundaries
It’s important to be open and honest with your parents, and if needed, to set boundaries.
We had a client come to us about her mother, who had little savings and wanted to retire early and move in with her daughter. The mother had not considered the financial burden she was creating for herself or for her adult daughter.
As much as the client wanted to be there to support her mother financially and emotionally, after several discussions, we encouraged her to have a frank talk with her mother about the financial implication of retiring early, and we agreed it made sense to encourage the mother to keep working.
I gave the woman some talking points as well as some statistics to help guide her in the discussion. While difficult, it was ultimately the right thing to do.
Some solutions are much less complex: Consider a basic checklist to help parents live more comfortable lives. Does mom need a hearing aid? Should your parents invest in an ID-theft protection service? Do your parents need a medical alert system? These are simple, effective ways to provide peace of mind and increase quality of life for both of you.
Tips and Resources to Hit Your Savings Goals
- Consider or review your life insurance and burial expenses. Term insurance, or even pre-paying for burial costs, are relatively inexpensive ways to protect your family when you die, and can provide you peace of mind.
- Shop out your auto and home insurance periodically. Call your insurance companies to see if you are properly protected, and if you qualify for any discounts. Many auto insurance companies have reduced their premium rates due to people driving less during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Consider umbrella liability insurance. If you have a trampoline or pool on your property, or if you or a family member is sued for negligence, umbrella insurance premiums are relatively inexpensive and can protect you or your family member.
- Lost treasure? One in 10 Americans have unclaimed property in the form of uncashed checks, security deposits, overpayments, and more. Find your state and check if you have money owed to you: https://unclaimed.org/search/
- Veteran benefits. If you or a family member has served in the military, you may qualify for educational opportunities or discounts on insurance. Subscribe to the latest benefits updates through military.com/benefits.
- Resources for Business Owners. The Small Business Administration offers numerous programs and resources, and recently launched a free learning platform to support women entrepreneurs as well as an Emerging Leaders Initiative to accelerate growth of high-potential small businesses in underserved cities.
- College savings. The average rate of inflation for college tuition is about 8% per year. Consider setting up a small college savings account and ask family and friends to contribute for birthdays and holidays. Set up monthly contributions so you can contribute before it hits your bank account. Visit www.savingforcollege.com for rankings, articles and calculators. For financial aid information and resources, check out https://studentaid.gov/.
- The SECURE Act. Passed in December 2019, this law was designed to make retirement easier and more accessible for many Americans. Many gig workers who previously weren’t allowed to participate in retirement plans, for example, can now participate. Here’s how you might benefit.
- The second wave of the Paycheck Protection Act (PPP) is here. See resources and how to secure funding at sba.gov/ppp.
- The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act was passed to provide relief and economic assistance to workers, families and business owners. You may be able to take advantage of temporary student loan forgiveness to lessen the impact. Find more personal finance resources.
Sophia Goode is an Investment Advisor Representative at Jaffe Tilchin Wealth Management and a contributor to The Penny Hoarder. She specializes in financial planning for women and business owners, and those navigating life transitions.
Jaffe Tilchin Investment Partners is a Registered Investment Advisor. Certain representatives of Jaffe Tilchin Investment Partners are also Registered Representatives offering securities through APW Capital, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC. 100 Enterprise Drive, Suite 504, Rockaway, NJ 07866 (800)637-3211.
The views expressed represent the opinion of Sophia Goode and not that of Jaffe Tilchin Investment Partners. These views are subject to change and are not intended as a forecast or guarantee of future results. This material is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute investment or tax advice and is not intended as an endorsement of any specific investment or tax strategy.