The “Sandwich Generation” Needs Bread

If you are at or approaching retirement age, today you live in a different reality than the one you were born into. When you came into this world, there was a fear that someday you could become burden to your own children, but it was only a remote possibility.

Our World Data published this amazing graphic that illustrates the rise in life expectancy around the world.

Life expectancy was shorter, and thus was the time adult offspring would have to devote to being eldercare givers. Also, a single income was enough to provide for a family, so one spouse – the wife, inevitably – would be in position to take on the chore. It helped that she expected this would be part of her life cycle and could rely on her daughter or daughter-in-law to care for her and her husband. Because her children came along while she was still in her 20s, they were fully grown and independent by the time caring for elderly family members became a necessity.

That whole armada has sailed. A baby born today can expect 79 trips around the sun – that’s nine more than those of us of grandma/grandpa age – and we get 10 more than our own nanas and pappies did. Today, almost 60% of married couples with children have dual incomes.

One consequence of two careers is that child rearing is delayed, often by about a decade. Lastly – and the COVID-19 pandemic gets some but by no means all of the blame for this – a majority of young adult Americans live with their parents. This last phenomenon has not occurred since the Great Depression of the 1930s. As the population ages and young adults struggle more than ever to achieve financial responsibility, it is middle-aged Americans who find themselves taking on multi-generational burdens.

Welcome to the Sandwich Generation

The Sandwich Generation consists of those in middle age who are caring for not only their aging parents but also their grown children. The term, though, is a little dated. Social workers first observed the Sandwich Generation 40 years ago. The people they were describing – women in their 30s and 40s – are themselves the elders now. And the adult offspring who care for them have their own children at home.

So, the sandwich has gotten bigger. It’s not just people in their 30s and 40s caring for parents and young children. Now there are many in their 50s and 60s caring for parents, children and even grandchildren. Gerontologists call this a “club sandwich”.

Ingredients

So, the challenge becomes: How does a late middle-aged couple provide for themselves and three other generations? Based on our research, these are the five best practices when faced with the challenge of supporting a multi-generational household:

  1. Communicate: Be sure to speak to your parents and children about your expectations and goals. It is easy to feel isolated when having to care for others, but keep in mind your family’s strengths and how they can help.
  2. Set realistic goals: Be specific about the amount of income you would need to have a “comfortable” retirement or have your kids attend a “good” school.
  3. Be flexible with your financial goals: Periodically check in with your advisor and make changes when needed. Your goals may change with time, it is okay to amend your plan to better fit your goals.
  4. Budget for childcare: Daycare is expensive for children or the elderly. Discuss how your family members can help with caring for younger children, or how your older children can help with your parents.
  5. Plan for emergencies: Expect the best, plan for the worst. The best way to protect your finances from life’s unexpected twists and turns, build an emergency fund.

Garnish 

Maybe you, as a Sandwich Generation member, have to bring home the bacon. And the cheese. And the tuna, lettuce, tomatoes and coleslaw.

But you don’t necessarily have to provide all the bread. Your parents very likely have some passive income and some assets they can sell if need be. If your kids are still at home, that suggests that perhaps they’re not making all they expected to, but they’re still making something and it need not all be spending money.

Your financial advisor can help you ensure that your parents live comfortably, you reach your own financial goals, and your accumulated wealth finds its way to the next generation. But taking those first steps toward providing for your multigenerational family is on you. As long as you can, build your sandwich on a foundation of artisanal seven-grain brioche.

Otherwise, you might be toast.

How Can We Help?

Our wealth advisors at Smith Anglin can help you every step of the way, from developing your goals, to establishing that very important emergency fund. Click on any of the pictures or links to listen to our advisors address some of the most challenging aspects of caring for your children and parents.

What is Long-Term Care?
Hear Dan Drummond, discuss planning and paying for long-term care.

How to Fund a Higher Education in Today’s Climate
Erick Dahl discusses strategies for funding your children’s college needs.

Construct a Financial Plan with Smith Anglin
Creating a financial plan can be stressful, listen to Jared Ford discuss the ways Smith Anglin can help you establish and reach your financial goals.

U.S. ECONOMY

Gross domestic product grew at a 6.7% annual rate in the second quarter, slightly faster than either the original or revised pace, according to the final estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The update reflects upward revisions to personal consumption and net exports.

Initial jobless claims for the week ending October 2 came to 326,000, a 38,000 week-over-week decrease as the covid-19 delta variant appeared to start burning out. The four-week moving average was 344,000, an increase of 3,500 from the previous week’s unrevised average.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 2.0% for the week ending September 25, a decrease of 0.1 percentage point from the previous week. The advance number for seasonally adjusted unemployment was 2,714,000, a decrease of 97,000 from the previous week. This is the lowest level for unemployment since immediately before the pandemic shutdown in March 2020.

The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers increased 0.4% in September on a seasonally adjusted basis after rising 0.3% in July, the Labor Department reported. Over the last 12 months, the all-items index increased 5.4% before seasonal adjustment. The index for food rose 0.9 percent, with the index for food at home increasing 1.2%. The energy index increased 1.3%, with the gasoline index rising 1.2%.

U.S. STOCKS

The S&P 500 reversed course with a 4.7% loss in September, ending a seven-month winning streak. The CBOE VIX “fear gauge” surged as a result, closing 40.4% higher at 23.14, suggesting a loss of confidence in equity markets, though investors do not appear to be panicky.

INTERNATIONAL

In Europe, Amsterdam’s Euronext 100, Frankfurt’s DAX and London’s FTSE 100 dipped 2.5%, 3.7% and 0.5% respectively in September. In Asia, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng joined its European peers by sinking 5.0%, but Shanghai’s SSE Composite and Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 were up 0.7% and 4.9% respectively. 

CENTRAL BANKS

Libertarians never had enough power to push their “end the Fed” position, but now the central bank is getting it from all sides.

Senior Federal Reserve officials have been caught with their alleged hands in the figurative till, and senators in both Republican and Democratic mainstreams want a full investigation. Meantime, the White House is trial-ballooning the elevation of liberal-leaning Fed board member Lael Brainard to the chair now held by Jerome Powell, a move opposed by senior Republicans.

In an upcoming confirmation hearing, you can expect senators to bring up a) that the Fed is the fourth central bank in American history and, for 76 years from 1836 to 1913, the republic managed to survive without one, and b) whether monetary policy will still be if cryptocurrency continues to grow at the pace it has over the past dozen years.

COMMODITIES AND CURRENCIES

Oil prices returned to form in September, with West Texas Intermediate crude gaining 9.5% to end the month at $75.03 per barrel, eliminating August’s swoon. Meantime, inflation hedge gold ticked down 3.4%, to end the month at $1,757.00 per ounce.

The dollar improved across the board for the third month in a row, reclaiming 1.9% against the euro, 2.1% against the pound in June, and 1.0% against the yen.

Cryptocurrency took a pause in September, with Bitcoin dipping 7.3%, to end the month at $43,869.28.