The term Sandwich Generation gets thrown around is if it were a new concept. In fact, the family unit has included both children and elders for thousands of years. Ancient Greece even required by law that children care for their aging parents or lose their citizenship1.
So why all the fuss about the current Sandwich Generation – the Gen Xers caught in the middle, caring for their children and their parents? Most likely it’s the financial stress that has been added to the family BLT over the years. Ancient Greece probably wasn’t stress-free, but mom generally stayed home and there were more people in the household to care for aging parents2. In modern-day America, 62% of married couples with children have both parents working3. For one parent to become a caregiver, the family would have to give up an income – generally not an easy thing to do. So now working moms and dads are juggling soccer practice and ortho appointments on one hand, bridge club and complicated medication schedules on the other.
In our annual financial stress survey4, almost a quarter of Generation X participants say that caring for their parents or in-laws is a cause of stress. Not surprising. Generation X is under more financial stress than their older and younger peers on a lot of issues, including having the lowest self-rating of their financial condition among the generations. Generation X is:
More stressed than others about the rising cost of their employee healthcare benefits,
More worried about job security more than their peers,
Not saving enough for emergencies and more likely than others to borrow from their 401(k),
In worse shape with debt and credit cards than older and younger generations, and
The least confident in their ability to make financial decisions.
This particular sandwich has a real impact on Gen X’s retirement picture, as they are in worse shape for retirement than Millennials and Baby Boomers. Almost two thirds of Gen X say they are behind in saving for retirement (vs 44% of Millennials and 42% of Baby Boomers). Forty percent say they expect to have to delay retirement (vs 28% and 25% of Millennials and Baby Boomers, respectively) primarily because they can’t afford to retire.
How can we help the Sandwich Generation? The top two reasons they’re not saving more for retirement are poor spending habits and credit card debt. And the top three topics on which they would seek advice are retirement planning, investing, and budgeting. So, the next time you want to talk retirement planning with a Gen Xer, spending, credit cards, and budgeting might be a good place to start. And you might want to spring for the sandwich.