Saving, Investing and Finding Balance in the Sandwich Generation

Saving, Investing and Finding Balance in “The Sandwich Generation”

As life expectancy increases for Americans, the “sandwich generation” continues to grow. In 2017, nearly 15 percent of middle-aged Americans were caring for and financially supporting minor children and elderly parents at the same time. Today it’s up to 23 percent, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.

It’s a tough balancing act to pull off – and even more so when you add savings and retirement goals to the mix. If you’re in this predicament, how do you prioritize who gets what? Is it selfish to save for yourself when others depend on you? How can you possibly afford elder care, college and your own investments all at the same time?

Don’t panic. You can do this. Here are some guiding principles.

Your Children

You would do anything for them. They have been the focus of your life for years – maybe decades – and they need you. Remember these tips to help yourself help them.

  • Divide age-appropriate household chores and school-related responsibilities among your children, teaching more independence each year. Kids that grow up doing dishes, laundry and basic cleaning will transition more easily to living outside your home in the future.
  • College is expensive, and it will come up sooner than you think. If you haven’t already, start planning now.
  • Proactively seek as much information as you can on college savings and assistance plans like state and federal grants, 529 plans and need-based assistance at your schools of choice. Many states offer tuition-free community college for students that qualify.
  • Take an active role in supporting and encouraging strong academic performance so scholarships may be an option.
  • Put your children on a path to financial literacy and independence by educating them from an early age on the importance of budgeting, goal setting and building credit and the dangers of debt.

Your Parents

You would also do anything for them. They were there for you as you grew up and found your way in the world. Now it’s time to return the favor. Just remember:

  • Establish and maintain open lines of communication with parents and your siblings.
  • Get to know your parents’ finances, including debt, income and investments.
  • Discuss their wishes for long-term elder care and help them explore the financial implications.
  • Examine their health and life insurance policies and decide together if they’re adequate.
  • Engage a financial advisor who can offer guidance and help you plan for the future.
  • Discuss and prepare documents like a letter of last instruction, Power of Attorney, wills, living wills and beneficiary designations.


People often put themselves at the bottom of the list. With so many others depending on you for money and care, how can you find time to take care of yourself? Do it. You can’t help them unless you’re in good shape. It’s worth the investment. Here’s what you can do.

  • Continue to focus on and prioritize your savings goals.
  • Schedule automatic drafts and transfers when possible to avoid the manual effort of saving money (and the “I’ll just skip this month” excuse).
  • Explore employer-sponsored retirement account options. They are easy to invest in and may include matching funds.
  • Talk to a financial advisor about an IRA that could include some tax- exempt or tax-deferred advantages.
  • If you’re covered by a qualified high-deductible health plan, you can open a health savings account (HSA) to save pre-tax income for eligible healthcare expenses.
  • If your employer offers flexible spending accounts (FSA) for dependent care or transit and parking, you can use them to reduce your taxable income while paying for these work-related expenses. To claim elder care expenses, there are some specific requirements that must be met.
  • Delegate and share responsibilities with your siblings, if possible.

Caring for children, elderly parents and yourself is a lot of physical and emotional labor. Don’t hesitate to seek professional guidance to help you distribute the work and find balance so you can enjoy making memories with your elders and children. The entire family will benefit from the structure you put in place to take care of yourself and the people who mean the most to you.

Tammy can be reached by phone at (865) 602-3601 or email at  

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