What is the “Sandwich Generation?” The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as “a generation of people who are caring for their aging parents while supporting their own children.” As I started reading more about the Sandwich Generation, I found that the definition has expanded, as “Sandwichers” increasingly find themselves caring and financially supporting not only children still at home, but also their adult children and grandchildren.
What age group find themselves most squeezed between the demands of children and parents? The Pew Research Center reports that 54% of people in their forties have a living parent over age 65 and children younger than eighteen that they help support financially.1 This study also found that a significant percentage of adults in their thirties, fifties and sixties find themselves in the same situation.
Historically, these caregiving responsibilities have fallen upon women. However, the NY Life Wealth Study found a more “balanced gender representation” since their last survey in 2020, with 45% of caregivers being women and 55% being men.2 This same study found that the average adult caregiver spends over 50 hours a week providing various services to kids and senior family members. The Sandwich Generation provides support in a number of ways, including financial support, running errands, and providing meals.
The NY Life Wealth Study found that women reported a higher emotional and mental strain as caregivers. Life as a caregiver can be stressful, overwhelming, and challenging, especially with only so many hours in the day. Various articles highlight the journey of these caregivers with words and phrases like “torn between parent and child,” “squeezed and stretched,” “guilt,” “juggling,” and “frazzled.”
I was struck by the caregivers’ stories in Elizabeth Chang’s Washington Post article addressing some of the challenges of the Sandwich Generation.3 One caregiver, Laura Reagan, said “… one of the things that’s really missing from the conversations about the demands on middle aged people of caregiving for elderly parents is the emotional load.”4 Emotional load, indeed…
As a financial planner who focuses on getting women fully engaged in their financial lives, I often find that the women who find themselves sandwiched between two generations need to spend more time taking care of their own mental and emotional health. Recently, I hosted a “Savvy Women Invest on Purpose” event in which I asked women to name their top priorities. One woman’s response— “self-care”—has stuck with me and kept resurfacing in my mind as I read about these caregivers’ journeys. Though I am not a mental health professional, I would think that setting boundaries, enlisting help from family and community resources, and taking time for yourself would be critical for any caregiver.
The New York Life Wealth Watch study reports that “95% of Sandwich Generation adults say that caregiving has impacted an area of their life with personal finances.” This finding indicates how vital it is for caregivers—or those who are considering becoming caregivers—to start working with a financial planner concerning the various impacts on their financial future. This becomes especially imperative for women, because we live longer in retirement and yet we typically go into our retirement years with much less saved than our male counterparts. It seems apparent that financially caring for the generation ahead and behind us could put us even farther behind.
At Provise Management Group, we provide fiduciary advice and guidance that always places clients’ interests foremost. To learn more about how we help women at all stages of life take greater control over their finances, visit our website to read our article, “Facing Retirement as a Single Woman? Here are Five Planning Steps to Help You Prepare.”
3,4 Chang, Elizabeth, “The sandwich generation is changing. The stress remains.” The Washington Post. March 22, 2023