As a parent, you have one of the most critical jobs in the world—raising and encouraging the next generation. Some parents may find that they're sandwiched between raising their kids and caring for older loved ones. Aptly named the "sandwich generation," those in their 40s and 50s may be feeling the pressure of being stuck in the middle.
If you're a loving parent and adult child caring for your parents, how do you balance your financial well-being and your child's and parent's needs?
Understanding Your Situation
You may feel compelled to provide care for your aging parents in addition to raising children, meaning you don't mind the added responsibility. However, stretching yourself financially between saving for college, preparing for your retirement, and covering your parents' costs can be a challenging situation to find yourself in. Your income stream could be affected depending on how much care your kids or parents require.
That's why protecting your financial standings when caring for loved ones should remain top of mind. Finding that balance is, of course, easier said than done. But here are a few ways to ease the financial toll of caring for elderly parents while doing your own parenting.
Tip #1: Build Your Support Network
Sometimes, people feel they need to shoulder all the responsibility of caring for their elderly parents. You may be the oldest sibling in your family, considered the most responsible, or live closest to Mom and Dad. But if you find that the caretaking is becoming too much for one person, it may be time to have a transparent and honest conversation with your siblings or other family members. They may not know how much added responsibility you've taken on, and they may be just as eager to help.
Family members aside, gathering a team of financial professionals can also benefit. Your financial advisor, for example, can help keep your financial priorities top of mind while also helping you develop a game plan for managing your caretaker responsibilities. Other professionals you may want to engage with include accountants, estate planning attorneys, insurance agents, and college planning professionals.
Tip #2: Keep Your Savings Goals in Mind
Remember, you cannot help others financially or otherwise if your financial standing is in jeopardy. Trying to put a kid through college while caring for aging parents can drain your savings if you aren't careful. That's why making your financial goals a priority is essential.
Staying focused on your long-term financial goals (such as retirement) can be considered a way of protecting your kids. Emptying your retirement accounts early or neglecting to save enough for retirement could leave you in a bad spot later in life. In turn, your children may find themselves providing for you financially while raising their own kids. Remembering to prioritize your long-term goals can help set you, your children, and your grandchildren up for a less stressful financial future.
Tip #3: Create Boundaries for Your Children
If your kids are college-age or older, you may be able to set financial limitations with them. This won't be easy, but it may be necessary for certain circumstances. If they don't already work, encourage them to find a part-time job. And if they're already earning an income, help them develop a budget and become as self-sufficient as possible. You may even find that, when presented with the opportunity, your kids can rise to the challenge and learn good money habits from being less financially dependent on their parents.
If your kids are younger, start working with them to understand the importance of saving versus spending. That way, when they're old enough to start earning their own money, they'll be well prepared to work toward financial independence from you.
Tip #4: Consider Investing in a Long-Term Care Policy
A long-term care insurance policy can cover several expenses not typically covered by health insurance. These could include assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), such as bathing, dressing, and eating. Care may be provided wherever your parents live, whether at home or in a nursing or adult day care facility.
A long-term care policy is typically bought when individuals are in their 50s or 60s, as a policy can't be obtained once a person has been diagnosed with certain debilitating conditions or diseases. Depending on your parent's health, you may still have time to purchase a policy. If not, you may want to seek a policy for you and your spouse if you're concerned about your future care needs.
Protecting yourself, your parents, and your kids requires careful strategizing, discipline and planning. It's a balancing act, but it's one you don't have to perform alone. Your financial professional can help steer you in the right direction while prioritizing your financial goals.