January 19, 2021
Four Finance Projects for the Sandwich Generation
Each day, about 8.2 million Americans are raising kids while caring for an aging mom or dad. That means daily dealing of schoolwork, sports and meal prep at home along with prescriptions, doctor visits and check-ins with senior parents. And expenses… lots of expenses.
Members of the sandwich generation endure enormous pressures, and since it can be painful to see a loved one struggling financially, many pull out the checkbook first and think later (or not at all) just to move past the bill d’jour and onto the next daily responsibility. In fact, some end up putting off retirement or picking up additional jobs to support aging parents and adult offspring.
Money can be an emotional and intimidating topic for those of us who aren’t jazzed about numbers on spreadsheets or following interest rates. But studies show that caregiver well-being and financial security can directly affect the health and independence of aging loved ones.
One approach to alleviate stress and make it less overwhelming is to break it down into projects. Each project entails research, hard conversations and possibly outside expertise. That’s why breaking them down will help caregivers keep documents and resources well organized as circumstances change.
Project #1: Think of yourself first.
Family caregivers and their partners should first focus on shaping their own financial goals and make a plan. Not only will this foster peace of mind and reduce marital stress, caregivers will make better, more informed decisions for their kids and parents. Consider whether to hire a financial advisor who can provide structure and detailed what-if scenario planning, or follow the basic DIY steps to create a financial plan.
Project #2: Have the talk with mom or dad (like, today).
Even if family caregivers are not yet responsible for financial support, it’s a good idea to start talking to parents about their finances, because it might take some time for parents to accept help. The New York Times offers both expert advice and helpful accounts from other caregivers about approaching this sensitive topic with empathy.
As difficult as this conversation might be, it is important to ensure a smooth transfer when parents are no longer able to manage finances. What’s more, applications for senior care services are likely to require years of finance and investment information (see Project #4).
Project #3: Set expectations for your kids.
Recruit your kids to the family’s finance team, especially when they approach the college admissions process. Position it as a brainstorm about goals and start with the big picture: The end game is to be financially independent of mom and dad, and that starts with making choices (such as college) that are a good financial fit.
Put them in charge of compiling the data on their top choices, including tuition, expenses, college-specific merit aid and work-study programs. Be honest about what you’ve saved or what you are able to contribute. Discuss and prioritize funding options, like other scholarship opportunities, student loans and employment. Have them lead the charge on things like building a resume and creating the timeline with important deadlines, and support them through ideas, edits, contacts and other resources.
And, before inviting adult kids to live at home, agree on a fair rate for rent, utilities and meals.
Project #4: Research before deciding how to pay for senior services or housing.
Family caregivers should resist the temptation to blindly pay the sticker price for mom or dad’s expenses out of their own pockets or transfer money into their accounts.
Products and services designed for aging citizens often have special programs or applications to determine the cost to an individual. What’s more, money transferred from children or other family members to mom are gifts—this is considered income on those applications. For example, Medical Assistance in Pennsylvania is an overarching insurance program supplemental to Medicare. To apply for programs offered by Medical Assistance, such as nursing home alternative Community Health Choices, individuals must submit five years of finance and investment data. When their accounts are being padded by friends or family over the years, it could be eating away at their eligibility for support.
Consider the not-so-obvious funding and payment options. For example, family caregivers might consider setting up a personal care agreement that would allow them or another family member to receive payment for in-home support, giving mom or dad a lower cost alternative to companies that might charge $150/day.
These projects are not sequential. Every member of the sandwich generation is dealing with a unique set of variables and circumstances that may make it more important to focus on one thing and sort of let go of the other for sanity’s sake. The important thing is to carve out some time, put pride and other hang-ups aside, and focus on the family relationships. Think, how many of the other 8.2 million people in the sandwich generation will look back on this grueling period in their lives and find it was a privilege to be a positive impact on both the younger and older generations of their family?
Family caregiver financial security is scientifically proven to impact independence among older adults. Service providers across the U.S. have adopted PFMIpro to track these and other risk factors, empowering professional caregivers to deliver appropriate support and data-driven updates to care teams and loved ones. With real time reporting capabilities, agency administrators can also track and report critical performance metrics to funding sources. Connect with the experts and request a demo at www.pfmipro.com.