The financial pressure of the sandwich generation

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If you live in Atlantic Canada, chances are, you’ve heard a lot about our aging population. It’s no secret that as a region, we’re getting older. In fact, we have the highest proportion of seniors in the country.

Here at Honest Money, we spend a lot of time talking about some of the financial pressures that come with aging—like how to make sure you take care of yourself in retirement and what to do if you haven’t saved enough.

But what if you’re part of the so-called “sandwich generation” and there are added financial hurdles to consider as you plan for your twilight years? We broke down what surviving the sandwich generation means for us here in Atlantic Canada.

What is the sandwich generation?

The sandwich generation is made up of adults—typically in their 30s and 40s—who are caring for both their children and their aging parents. The stress of supporting a family can be tough on its own—and the sandwich generation is feeling the added financial squeeze of caring for elderly parents. It’s a scenario that’s becoming more common in Atlantic Canada—especially as we’re living longer and choosing to start families later in life.

Managing the financial strain

Like any financial challenge, having a plan and talking to a financial expert is always a good place to start. This means mapping out your short- and long-term financial goals for your family—from monthly obligations like mortgage and car payments, to future plans like retirement and post-secondary education for your kids. It’s important to know exactly where you stand. Once that’s established, it’s time to have an open and honest conversation with your parents. What does their retirement strategy look like? And what is their plan for long-term care? It’s not always an easy discussion, but this will give you a clear picture of how much support you’ll need to provide down the road. An expert from your financial institution can help you do the math and make sure that you’re able to balance caring for your parents, without losing sight of your own financial dreams.

There’s no doubt that this can lead to some difficult decisions. But it’s worth noting that as a region, as our population gets older, we’re looking for solutions to minimize the financial burden. Some alternative solutions encourage a different, more community-focused approach to caring for the elderly. From families choosing to live with parents and grandparents as they get older, to co-housing (a cooperative, community living model, that involves caring for your neighbours and sharing amenities), these approaches not only help alleviate some of the financial challenges that come with aging, but they may be healthier, too.

Have questions about the sandwich generation and managing the financial impact? Contact your local credit union.