Creating the Perfect Sandwich

When today's 66-year-olds were born in 1952, the average American had a life expectancy of 65.8 for men and 71.6 for women. Today those numbers are 76.1 for men and 81.1 for women.

With the age of retirement decreasing and the average life span increasing, we are left in the precarious position of possibly outliving our money all while possibly dealing with age related chronic illnesses and rising healthcare costs. This kind of situation forces many to rely on adult children for care and support in the golden years.

Longevity; it’s a double-edged sword.


Sounds like the retirement everyone dreams of, right? Not exactly!


Cue up the “Sandwichers”.

The term “Sandwich generation” is a term used for a generation of people, usually in their 40s and 50s, who care for their aging parents while at the same time bringing up their own children. The typical American Sandwich Generation Caregiver is in her mid-forties, married, employed and cares for her family and an elderly parent, usually her mother. AARP estimates there are more than 66 million Americans caring for both their children and parents financially and emotionally.

Sandwich Generation Infographic copy (002).jpg

Chances are that half of us will at some point be responsible for our parents and our children at the same time. Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends project stated that nearly half (47 percent) of those currently raising kids have a parent over age 65 who requires care or may require care in the future. With those odds, it pays to be prepared.

Have you had a conversation with your parents about their financial picture, their savings account and insurance coverage lately? Does it sound as uncomfortable as discussing your sex life with them? Time to get over it (the financial part that is)!


Here are some tools to create a customized sandwich:


  • Approach with love: We are all specialists in some way of putting off things we don’t want or know how to deal with in our lives. We are asking our parents about their future plan because we want an amazing future together, but remember this is their plan and they may be hesitant to open up. Go slow, but be steadfast.

  • The more we know, the better we’re prepared. Get it all on the table:

Savings and Investments

Health Insurance plan

Life Insurance

Long Term Care Insurance


Living Will or Advance Directive

Health Care Power of Attorney

Power of Attorney

Wills and Trusts

Estate Planning

Sort through all you parents’ documents with them.  Do they have the above listed items? If not, now’s a great time to get these items implemented.  If they do, get copies of everything.  Most parents want independence and want to be in control of how they are cared for, so planning is critical. Unfortunately, many parents cannot afford costly LTC Insurance and have very little saved, so we are then faced with the question of how we will afford to care for them. In these cases, we must arm ourselves with knowledge on available assistance to ensure quality care and optimal life for those we love. Medicaid and PACE (Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly), and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are available if you meet the benefit requirements and you can check out your state Medicare programs and learn how to apply. You can visit AARP’s website for state by state directive forms, but for specific questions it is best to consult an attorney.

  • It’s a Family Affair: Bring your siblings into the conversation! Clear, concise information when shared creates better decision making in the long run.

  • Make sure your OWN Empire Building is in full swing. (But you already knew that!) Continue to build your retirement accounts --- there are no scholarships, grants or loans for retirement, like there are for college. Don’t forsake your own planning while you care for mom or dad.


Things to consider when caring for aging parents are:


  • Housing options – Evaluate and plan for appropriate level of housing or residential options. Staying in their home, assisted living, independent living, nursing home, home healthcare. What do they want? What can you realistically afford?

  • Social activities – Help keep them active by providing opportunities for parents to engage in social and recreational activities and the ensuing logistics.

  • Medical management – Keep on top of doctor appointments, facilitate communication between doctor and parent. The more you monitor adherence to medical orders and instructions the better assured you are that everyone is on the same page with critical health information.

  • Financial responsibility - Many parents are still willing and able to responsibly handle their finances, but overseeing bill payment and contributing money for care and other expenses, if possible, can be helpful.

  • Enlist your advisor and attorney- Your advisor/attorney can provide many resources for your specific situation and add perspective and guidance to your home team.

  • SUPPORT GROUPS!! You are not alone and there are so many amazing people that are going through a similar journey. Learn from each other and collaborate. PBS is a great place to seek information on all kinds of support groups for aging parents and Sandwichers.


No level of financial planning will prepare us for the myriad of emotions as we go through something like this.  We must promise, swear even, to take care of ourselves BEFORE we take care of our parents and children; if we’re not at our best we cannot care for anyone else. Don’t take on more than you can handle --and drop the guilt--there’s enough of that in the world already. 

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