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Budgeting Tips for the Sandwich Years

a multi generational family celebrating a birthday

The sandwich years are not, unfortunately, a period in your life that you can spend investigating the formula for the perfect Reuben or eating all the peanut butter and jelly concoctions your heart ever desired. As appetizing as it may sound, this is a phrase that describes a phase in life that is potentially both emotionally and financially difficult: one in which you are caring for both aging parents and older children.

It doesn’t look the same for everyone, and some won’t be sandwiched as they may only be responsible for children or parents. However, many of the tips below are applicable to them as well.

Watch Out for Yourself

You can’t help anyone if you’re impoverished, and if you torpedo your retirement, you risk putting your children in the same situation you’re in now in about 20 years. Whatever the other demands placed on you, you need to maintain your financial stability, continue contributing to your retirement account, and avoid raiding it. If your children or parents need money that you don’t have without taking drastic measures, help them find out what kind of services may be available to them.

Cosigning on Student Loans

If you’ve decided not to turn to your own savings to help your child pay for college, they may have put together a combination of funding to cover their expenses, such as scholarships, federal aid, and private loans. The problem they may run into with private loans is that if they don’t already have a credit history, which most rising college freshman don’t, they may not be approved for a student loan. You can change that by cosigning for them, but it’s important that you know what that will involve. You can review a guide on helping a family member apply to help you make the right decision for your family.

Respect Parental Boundaries

Figuring out the best way to help your parents can be tough because you face a position where the roles are somewhat reversed. At the same time, you need to be careful about letting them take the lead. This can be frustrating, but most older adults do not want their children dictating what they should do and will not respond well to it. If they are particularly resistant but clearly in need of assistance, try to find ways to gently persuade them to let you help. Be respectful and grant them autonomy. Of course, if cognitive issues come up, you may need to be more forceful, but despite the stereotypes, for most older adults, this is not an issue.

Budget Help

An excellent way to help both your newly independent child and your aging parents is to sit down with them and work on a budget. In the case of your child, they might never have been responsible for managing their money before. You can help them figure out how to start a budget and exactly how long they need their student loan checks and other money to last and help them determine how much they can spend on various categories each week, such as transportation and food. With your parents, you may need to look with them at their entire financial situation and figure out whether there are strategies that could improve their situation.

Estate Planning

If your minor children are no longer minor, it may be time to take a look at your will and other estate planning documents and decide if you want to revise them. If you want your kids to inherit some property but you’re not sure if they will be mature enough to manage it at 18 or 19, you might want to consider a trust that can keep it safe until they are a bit older. If your parents don’t have an estate plan, you should encourage them to create one. If they do have one, this is a good time to review it and see if they should make any changes to it.

Published: April 26, 2023
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justin weinger

Justin Weinger

Justin Weinger is a 15-year corporate finance veteran, with a shared passion for blogging and content creation. He has spent 15 years in various industries, including automotive manufacturing, automotive financing, banking, consulting, and healthcare. When he isn't working, or blogging, he is a married man of 8 years, and a proud father of 3 girls.

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