Sandwiched in Stress: How the Sandwich Generation Is Struggling to Balance Raising Kids and Caring for Aging Parents

As the ‘Sandwich Generation’ struggles to balance the demands of raising children and caring for aging parents, the stress is taking a toll.

The costs of raising a child are well known, and parents have financial obligations for raising their children, with some estimates of around $12,000 annually per child. However, members of the “sandwich generation” often financially support their own parent(s) in addition to their children.

The Sandwich Generation

Pew Research Center defines the “Sandwich Generation” as “adults who have a living parent age 65 or older and are either raising a child under age 18 or supporting a grown child”.

These adults are “squeezed” between taking care of their young children, physically and financially and caring for their aging parents physically and/or financially.

Sandwiched in Stress

A new survey shows that 66% of the sandwich generation — Americans who are raising or financially supporting children and also have at least one living parent age 65+ — are either “very stressed” (29%) or “somewhat stressed” (37%) about affording their family’s financial obligations over the next ten years.

The Policygenius survey also found that more than half of the sandwich generation (52%) expect that supporting their parent(s) will cost just as much or even more than supporting their children over the next five years.

Other findings from the Sandwich Generation Survey include the following:

  • When asked how they would pay for long-term care for their parent(s):
    • 48% said they would use Medicare — even though Medicare doesn’t pay for long-term care
    • 18% said they would have to pay for it themselves
    • 19% said they don’t know how they’d pay for it
  • 24% haven’t discussed financial needs, health care needs, a will, end-of-life care wishes, or estate planning with their aging parent(s).
  • 49% don’t have life insurance to help financially support their loved ones after they die.

“Being a caregiver, whether for your children or parents, can be extremely stressful, especially when you’re balancing it with other responsibilities and your long-term goals,” Myles Ma, personal finance expert at Policygenius, said. “What’s really surprising is how seldom people are talking about what this entails, especially with their loved ones, which could explain why many of them also don’t have financial protection, like life insurance, in place.”

Danielle Miura CFP, Spark Financials, deals specifically with financial planning for the sandwich generation.

Before you get involved in all the nitty-gritty of care, she says, “Understand that you are not required to selflessly throw yourself into a caregiving role. Remember that you deserve to make a choice that will protect your emotional and physical well-being. Your decision to get involved should be on your terms. Join an online support group or build a caregiving community on social media can help validate your feelings and give you a place to ask for advice. “

After that, “Create a list of people or resources that you can rely on.  An emergency plan can alleviate anxiety around possible “what-if” scenarios. Make sure your roster is filled with a few people who can be there for you on short notice. As well as set up support people who can help you with your kids while you are gone. Get copies of your loved one’s essential legal and medical documents like insurance policies, advance directives, will, and a current medication list.” 

Delegate and Coordinate

Kevin Lao, CFP, RICP, Imagine Financial Security, LLC, says you can do a few things to ease the burden.
He says you should delegate and coordinate your parent’s care, “Hopefully, you have siblings you can share responsibilities for Mom or Dad.  Can someone take care of the finances, and someone else take care of medical care?  What about custodial care?  Can Mom or Dad afford to pay someone to help provide care with day to day living activities?  I have a client in Florida who’s Mom lives in California.  She’s still independent, but she and her sisters hired a “nanny” to help with her care and maintenance.  This gives her and her siblings peace of mind, but also frees them up to care for their own children. If that’s not in the budget for Mom / Dad, perhaps chip in and pay for it yourself.  You can’t put a price tag on freeing up your time as you have your own children to care for too!”

Hire a Professional

He and Danielle recommend hiring a professional to help manage the finance.  “If the finances are becoming too much to manage, consult a fiduciary financial advisor who can help with the income planning and asset management needs for Mom / Dad.  There are also Geriatric Care Managers you can hire for a consultation.  These folks can provide information on medical assistance, financial assistance, and care management expertise.”
Financial planners with expertise in financial planning for the sandwich generation will understand your unique circumstances and help you set up a financial plan for you and your parents.

Legal Concerns

Kevin and Danielle urge adults in this situation to ensure they have all the legal documents and agreements in order as soon as possible. Danielle says, “Visit an elder law attorney to ensure your loved one’s legal documents are in order and understand their options to qualify for Medicaid.”

Kevin concurs, “If you are currently caring for, or likely to care for Mom / Dad, make sure you have legal access and authority to make decisions on their behalf.  For example, you might need a  Power of Attorney to access their bank accounts and pay their bills.  Make sure those documents are completed and in your hands.  You also want to make sure they are on file with your financial institutions, so there is no delay.”



Hi! I am a millennial mom with a passion for personal finance. I have always been “into” personal finance but got inspired to start my blog after a period of extended unemployment. That experience really changed the way I viewed my relationship with money and the importance of accessible personal finance education.