Were your parents in their late 30s when you were born? If yes, prepare yourself to be part of the sandwich generation earlier than expected.
The sandwich generation means individuals with the responsibility of both raising their children and taking care of their aging parents. This term was developed in the 80s when most couples married and had children in their 20s.
Historically, this dual responsibility occurred in one’s 40s. But if your parents were closer to their 40s when you were born, you’ll begin this responsibility earlier — when you’re in your 30s.
Right now, your parents may be active – whether they are working or retired. But once they reach their 70s, you may notice changes as aging tends to accelerate.
Declines in physical or mental capabilities become noticeable. For some individuals, these declines may happen in both areas.
If your parents are married, you may not be aware of the changes. Typically, the healthier spouse covers the decline of the other spouse.
However, if your parents are single, you will recognize something is off and will be involved earlier.
While your parents are still healthy and active, start having discussions now about their finances.
You may have to supplement their retirement if they don’t have enough money. This additional expense may derail your finances.
You may have to adjust your spending, including how much you can afford to pay for your child’s college education. This financial disruption could also impact how much you can save for your retirement.
Before engaging in this conversation with your parents, assess how they communicate. They may be reserved about their financial situation requiring you to approach the topic tactfully.
It may take several attempts before they speak openly about their finances. Be patient and understanding.
To make the conversation approachable, structure it as if you’re looking for their advice. In this way, they won’t put up a defensive wall.
Here are three questions to ask your parents to help you gauge if you’ll need to supplement their retirement.
1- How did you set up your checking account for someone to continue paying bills if you had a medical condition and unable to handle that task?
If they haven’t done anything, then at least you’ve planted the seed for them to explore. If your parents are married, their spouse will most likely take over paying bills.
But if your parents are single, there needs to be a plan. They may not want your name on the account, but they could put in place a power of attorney.
They would need to contact the bank where their accounts are held to receive more information on the bank’s requirements.
2- Did you purchase long-term care insurance?
With individuals living longer, long-term care expenses drain many retirement savings accounts. Long-term care includes in-home care, adult daycare, and nursing home.
If they did not purchase long-term care insurance, find out if they’ve saved for that expense. Unfortunately, Medicare does not pay for long-term care unless you need skilled services or rehabilitative care.
Read our blog post “Can Your Parents Afford Long-Term Care?“ for more information about this topic.
3- Would you recommend paying off your mortgage?
What you’re looking for is how much debt they still owe. In responding to this question, your parents may reveal their philosophy about debt. But be aware that some people don’t follow their own advice.
If they feel they will live in their current house forever, evaluate what modifications may be needed as they age. For example, stairs become problematic with declining physical health.
Also, home maintenance becomes challenging. You may need to cover these expenses as they age.
Money is often perceived as a taboo topic for most families, especially when diving into your parents’ financial situation. If you eventually will be responsible for supplementing your parents’ retirement, then take the initiative to begin the conversation before you are blind-sided.
Pay attention to your parents’ spending habits, especially if they are on a fixed income. It’s also better to have a non-emotional discussion about financial matters before a crisis happens.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Niv Persaud, CFP®, CDFA™, RICP®, CRPC®, is the Founder of Transition Planning & Guidance, LLC. Life is more than money. It’s about living the lifestyle you want and can afford. For that reason, Niv consults with clients on money, life, and work. Her approach capitalizes on techniques she learned throughout her career, including as a management consultant, executive recruiter, and financial advisor. Her services include developing spending plans, comprehensive financial plans, divorce financial reviews, retirement plans. Niv actively gives back to her community through her volunteer efforts. She believes in living life to the fullest by cherishing friendships, enjoying the beauty of nature and laughing often — even at herself. Her favorite quote is by Erma Bombeck, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say ‘I used everything you gave me.’”
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