Helping Those in the Sandwich Generation

Most people love a good sandwich, but in this case, being in the “sandwich generation” can be a real challenge. Originally coined to describe Baby Boomers caught between caring for their aging parents and their children, the term now applies to whichever generation happens to be grappling with the problem, currently mostly Gen X. If you’re in the middle part of the sandwich, it might help to have an honest conversation about your situation and how to best manage it.

When preparing for such a discussion, start with the “bottom” part of the sandwich: your children. If they are still in their formative years, and most likely living at home with you, you should make them your top priority. At this stage, you’ll still have a good deal of the control over the decisions affecting their lives, though the choices you have to make are different for every family.

The “upper” half of the sandwich can be more problematic. Depending on their health status and financial situation, your parents may resist your efforts to help them. Remember, you are still their child, so they may be oblivious to changes or dismissive of your concerns. This depends a great deal on the personalities and relationship dynamics in your family, and their attitude can range from being cooperative to highly resistant.

To initiate a family meeting, invite all the key players — your parents, siblings and, as appropriate, their spouses, at the least. Depending on the ages of your children, it might make sense to include them as well. While it is best to do this face-to-face, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may want to have an online video chat instead. 

Make a list of the topics you want to discuss before the conversation. Make sure in addition to issues of health and safety that you cover the entire tax and financial planning gamut as well. The dialogue should be frank and honest, and you may want to start by sharing the reasons you want to have this conversation now while all parties are healthy. Many issues can be sensitive, and emotions can run high, so be prepared for some handwringing or pushback.

You probably won’t be able to accomplish all your objectives in a single conversation, so it might make sense to schedule a couple of talks where you focus on specific topics each time. In some cases, it might make sense to include your accountant, financial planner or estate attorney. We are happy to help you and offer advice on how to address any tax issues, so reach out if you have questions or need input.

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