How do I care for children and ageing parents?

Budgeting, planning and accessing government entitlements could go a long way both financially and emotionally.

As Australia’s population continues to age, more people are joining what’s been coined the ‘sandwich generation’—a group wedged between the needs of their kids and their older parents.

If it’s something you’re juggling at the moment, or want to prepare yourself for in the future, here is some general information and a few tips, so you don’t lose sight of your own goals along the way.

What is the sandwich generation?

The phrase sandwich generation refers to people who are effectively ‘sandwiched’ between supporting ageing parents and their children—physically, emotionally and financially1.

Coupled with work commitments and saving for retirement, it can be a tricky balancing act, and it’s possible some may have to stay in the workforce longer to meet added financial obligations2.

What triggered this scenario?

Australia’s population is ageing

Australians are living longer3. To put it into perspective, around 40 years ago, the number of people over age 85 was 80,000 and in another 40 years that number is projected to reach around two million4.

This means that more individuals are helping parents who are ill and need assistance with daily tasks, with projections that the total cost of aged care in Australia will increase to $290 billion by 20555.

Children are leaving the nest later

Nearly one in four young adults age 20 to 34 continue to live at home, and of those who have moved out, more than half have returned home within two years6.

Reasons for this include the increased cost of living, housing affordability issues, growing education debt, travel aspirations early in life, as well as many young people getting married and having children later in life7.

What are the costs?

Feeling time poor and slightly out of pocket isn’t unusual for members of the sandwich generation.

Many may be helping elderly parents with odd jobs and aged care costs, while also supporting children with things like schooling and accommodation, and, if they’re a bit older, possibly the purchase of big-ticket items, such as a car or their first property.

In fact, estimates show baby boomer members of the sandwich generation are forking out $23 billion a year to assist elderly parents and adult children. And as far as time goes, they’re spending 109 hours helping their kids and 250 hours helping older relatives each year8.

How can I manage or prepare myself?

To live a modest lifestyle in retirement, you’ll need more than what the Age Pension can provide on its own, and more still if you want to live a comfortable lifestyle9. If you’re caring for children and parents, here are some tips, so you can balance their needs, as well as your own.

Look out for yourself and keep site of your future plans

Get your children involved and teach them good habits

  • Start a savings fund early on—whether it be for education, a car or deposit for a property
  • Teach your children how to save and be financially independent 
  • Set limits and make sure they’re chipping in—financially, and domestically if they’re at home
  • Reassess the situation together every now and then to see how things are working.

Communicate with your parents and don’t be afraid to seek assistance

  • Share the load with other family members
  • Find out if your parents are eligible for government benefits
  • See what help and care assistance is available
  • Communicate so you’re aware of their estate planning wishes
  • Should they need full-time care, try to plan for this well in advance.

Taking care of others can be a wonderful thing, but don’t forget about your own needs along the way, and to take some time out every now and then.

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© AMP Life Limited. This provides general information and hasn’t taken your circumstances into account. It’s important to consider your particular circumstances before deciding what’s right for you. Although the information is from sources considered reliable, AMP does not guarantee that it is accurate or complete. You should not rely upon it and should seek qualified advice before making any investment decision. Except where liability under any statute cannot be excluded, AMP does not accept any liability (whether under contract, tort or otherwise) for any resulting loss or damage of the reader or any other person.