What’s your favorite sandwich? Is it turkey and Provolone? Ham and Swiss? Grilled cheese or peanut butter and jelly? My top two are the last two. I love the texture in the bread and the warm melted cheese in the grilled cheese sandwich. The peanut butter and jelly sandwich offers a contrasting texture of crunchy and smooth. What does any of that have to do with this week’s blog post? Good question!
Many of my conversations with people lately have involved discussion around how to send their students (adult kids) to college and help take care of their aging parents at the same time. The people who are managing both of these life-changing occasions are typically referred to as the sandwich generation. According to Wikipedia “the sandwich generation is a group of middle-aged adults who care for both their aging parents and their own children. It is not a specific generation or cohort in the sense of the Greatest Generation or the Baby boomer generation, but a phenomenon that can affect anyone whose parents and children need support at the same time.”
What complicates things for many coping with this phenomenon is that students are not considering the financial impact of their decisions such as where they decide to go to college or what they intend to study. Parents are paying exorbitant tuition costs to send their students to out of state college for a degree in basket-weaving. All kidding aside, part of preparing students for college is helping them choose an area of study that will serve them well not just financially but spiritually as well. And it is a reasonable expectation to give them the opportunity to pay for part of it or seek out scholarships.
Students wanting to go to specific universities often rely on their parents for financial support when it comes to tuition, supplies, housing, food, car insurance or covering the cost of cell phones. Parents are even helping their students get “parent plus” loans that make parents ultimately responsible for paying back the loan instead of the student. More on that in a different blog.
Meanwhile, parents are aging and living longer requiring more care and resources. Often members of the sandwich generation are serving as a caregiver, bill payer, power of attorney, and more. If parents haven’t done a good job in planning for the future or have run out of resources through no fault of their own, the financial burden can fall to the adult children to find solutions.
As parents, we want the best for our kids. We want them to be afforded every opportunity, especially those we weren’t afforded when we were students. As adult children, we want our parents to be able to live their best life for as long as possible and sometimes at any cost. These are both good reasons to include the previous generation and future generations in dreaming and saving. Hopefully you won’t have to make a choice between sending your student to a college of their choice and ensuring the best care for your parents. You can plan accordingly knowing the needs of your kids and your parents. It’s not always easy to discuss the realities of these financial decisions with family, but it is well worth the conversation to understand if/how you want/need to help in the future. If you want some help in thinking about the future, let me know. It's my favorite part of being a financial coach!