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One Roast Beef Sandwich, Hold the Kids, Hold the Parents

by Derek Sisterhen on May 6, 2010

Once upon a time, people would go to work for a company for many years, retire with a nice pension and health care benefits to last the rest of their lives. Once upon a time, kids could go to college without incurring mortgage-sized student loans.

The good ol’ days.

“Sandwich Generation” is the term used to describe the folks in our country with aging parents and children on the cusp of higher education. The squeezing effect – or sandwiching – sounds like the ringing of a cash register: aging parents may not be prepared to live out their lives financially and the expense of raising children and transitioning them to college can be overwhelming.

If you’re already feeling the squeeze, it’s time to buckle down. There are conversations that need to occur with both sides of the sandwich.

For aging parents, it’s time to get real about their financial and physical situation. Do they have enough cash flow for rising medical costs? Will they need to be relocated or require an assisted living arrangement? Would you (or a sibling) be providing some level of care – physical or financial – as a result? Should your parents’ ability to make clear, rational decisions diminish with age, who will step in to help?

For children on the verge of leaving the nest, it’s time to reveal the realities of life on the outside.

Do your children understand how a budget works? Do they have an accurate understanding of the cost of living? Kids know how much music downloads, clothes, and lunches at their favorite restaurants cost, but they might not know what it takes to keeps lights on, water running, and a roof over their heads. Have you set expectations for life after college? If your children return home, is there a timeline in place for them to move out on their own? What expenses will they be responsible for when back in the nest? Do they avoid taking on new debt?

Just because you’re caught in the middle doesn’t mean you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. You can work out of the sandwich – start with some proactive conversations today.

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