Sandwich Generation

Affording Aging Parent Care & Your Kids’ College

It’s called the “Sandwich Generation.” And it has nothing to do with anyone’s eating habits. Instead, the phrase refers to adults in Alabama and across America who are caring for aging parents at the same time they’re raising children. According to a Pew Research Center survey, that describes approximately 12% of all Americans who are primarily between the ages of 40 and 60. The numbers are rising, as senior citizens enjoy longer lifespans, and many younger people live at home well into their 20s.
Timewise, adults tending to two generations struggle to juggle careers and social lives. There’s even greater financial anxiety, given the high cost of everything from senior living options to college tuition.

The silver lining is you’re not alone. The Sandwich Generation can seek assistance from financial experts and elder law attorneys, among others. MAX Credit Union would be glad to meet with you, discuss your circumstances, and help put together a financial plan.

A High Price

The cost of caring for aging parents and kids at one time? Staggering. Check out these figures.

  • Nursing home care: $93,075 per person per year for a semi-private room nationally, according to a 2020 survey. In Alabama, the average was $78,480.
  • Assisted living facilities: About $4,300 a month in 2020, triple the average mortgage payment.
  • Home health care aide for parents: Up to $240 for an eight-hour day.
  • Raising one child for one year: $13,800, on average as of 2015, including food, clothing, medical care, entertainment, and everything else, according to government data.
  • College tuition: $212,800, on average, over four years for students who entered private nonprofit colleges in 2021. For public colleges, the four-year total is about $101,000 for in-state pupils. Alabama’s average was $20,497 a year for tuition and fees at a public college, just below the national public-college average of $21,035 annually.

Parental Planning

When you were young, your parents directed your life. Now the tables have turned. It can be awkward, but you need to take charge.

  • Parents’ financial pulse: Have a candid discussion about financial matters with your parents. The more you understand about their assets and expenses, the better you can plan. Budgeting software, which is often included with online banking services, can help you find places to economize.
  • Consolidate accounts. Older people often have money in different retirement plans and financial institutions. Combining accounts as much as possible can save money in fees and make it easier to monitor your parents’ assets. MAX Credit Union would be pleased to assist you with this process.
  • Find a financial planner in Alabama. Many seniors are withdrawing money from Individual Retirement Accounts and 401(k) plans, as well as collecting payouts from Social Security and pensions. The fact is, there’s an art to taking distributions in a way that minimizes tax burdens.
  • Research insurance. Consider buying a long-term care policy for your parents. They aren’t cheap, but it’s better than paying out-of-pocket for nursing home stays or at-home caregivers. Premiums rise as the beneficiaries get older, so it’s best to purchase a plan a soon as soon as possible. At MAX Credit Union, our experienced insurance team might be able to help.
  • Seek Discounts. Joining organizations like AARP is an obvious place to start. For a small annual fee, your parents get lower prices on medicine, travel, movies and more. If they plan to continue living in their own home, see if your state offers a property tax reduction for seniors.

Your Kids’ Costs

That difficult conversation about finances you had with your parents? You’ll have to have it with your kids, too. Here are some other things to consider.

  • Revise your budget. The reality is that you’ll have less money to spend on your kids. Take advantage of obvious savings, like eating out less and trading in cable TV for a cheaper streaming service. But be creative. Make use of free resources, like parks and libraries. Shop at thrift stores instead of the mall. Join a warehouse store and buy basic foods in bulk quantities to save money.
  • Part-time work. No matter how you felt about your teenage kids working before, it might become a necessity now. On the plus side, they’ll learn responsibility and build a solid résumé in addition to contributing to family finances.
  • College saving. Having your bright kid skip college shouldn’t be one of the sacrifices you make. Instead, start saving early to minimize the sticker shock. A few dollars a month in a 529 College Savings Plan or a Coverdell Education Savings Account can really add up over the years. Another idea: Have your child attend community college or take some online college courses before transferring to a four-year school.

One Big Family

A final thought: Don’t try to take on the entire burden yourself.

  • Is one or both of your parents still pretty active? Have them watch your kids after school instead of paying for daycare.
  • Do you have a responsible teenager? Let them drive their grandparents to medical appointments instead of you missing time from work.
  • Have an adult sibling in another city or state? They can still pitch in a few dollars a month and help oversee your parents’ finances, insurance matters, etc.
And don’t forget to take care of you. Despite the financial strain, it’s important to keep contributing to a retirement fund, like the IRAs available at MAX Credit Union. By doing this, you’ll make sure your children won’t have to care for you financially in your senior years.

MAX Credit Union is a full-service financial institution serving Central and East Alabama, including Montgomery, AL; Auburn, AL; Opelika, AL; Prattville, AL; Wetumpka, AL; and Troy, AL.