Are you living in a multigenerational household or are you considering having your parents move in? Do you take care of aging parents as well as your own children?
Do you know someone who is having challenges with caring for their parents? If any of these situations are yours, then this series is for you.
In other countries, the sandwich generation is a cultural thing, and it has been passed on from generation to generation. Therefore, it’s a given. But is it necessarily a bad thing? There is nothing wrong with caring for family members.
In last week’s episode, we spoke about what the sandwich generation is and what issues you may face if you are taking care of both your parents and your own children. Today, we’re talking about six lessons for the Sandwich Generation. Now Tae and I didn’t get through all six of the lessons in our conversation, but they are all listed below
Get to Know Everybody’s Finances
Growing up as an immigrant family, Tae’s parents didn’t know anything about retirement savings, and money wasn’t discussed in his household. Tae said when his parents moved in they didn’t have a formal sit down but he does have a sense of his parent’s financial situation. His father has a small business where he generates a little money from that, but both of his parent’s main source of income is Social Security. He also knew that whatever money that had saved was really the down payment that they had for this home. So his parent’s offer was we will help you with the down payment for your home but you know, that we come with the house and you guys take care of the majority of the overall expenses.
The conversation of finances can be tricky because there is a fine line between knowing everything about your parent’s financial situation and still respecting his parent’s independence and their decision making. So, definitely, by living together, they were able to have more natural organic conversations where he learns more a little at a time. But he doesn’t know if he could sit down with that and be like ‘alright, let’s learn everything’.
Understand whose money it is
Just because you are responsible for paying all the bills doesn’t mean it’s “your money.” If you can have your parents make some financial decisions that is the best way to go. Also, if you have children living with you, make them pay their fair share for certain things. Even if you are able to afford to shoulder the cost alone. Many experts suggest that grown-up children who return to the nest post-college should pay their parents for a portion of the household expenses. Otherwise, they don’t grow up to be independent.
Seek out the right professionals and organizations for help
You don’t have to do it alone! Unless you’re a financial and legal wiz — and an ace social worker to boot — there’s no way you can manage the myriad affairs of your life, let alone your parents’ lives. If you haven’t already, you’ll want to consider working with a financial adviser for everything from retirement to college planning. You’d also be surprised how much direct help you can get — or referrals to professionals — through government programs or nonprofit organizations. (Best of all: A lot of these resources are free.) A great place to start is your local Area Agency on Aging (these are programs funded through the federal government.
Find good care
If your aging parents need extra care, get help! In the article, the author writes: If there’s a single professional who’s made the greatest difference in my life — and my father’s life — in the past couple of years, it’s the caregiver who spends about 35 hours a week with him. She not only takes care of a lot of day-to-day needs, but she also provides companionship. Not a small thing when you’ve reached the point in life, as my father has, where you’ve outlived your spouse and most of your friends.
But finding good care is no easy task. (And the same is true if you’re looking for a caregiver for your children, though I’m thankfully well past that stage.) It may be something of a cliché to suggest this, but it never hurts to ask friends, family members, and neighbors for recommendations. I found my dad’s caregiver through a neighbor who just happened to know a caregiver looking for a new client.
Raising the Kids
Grandparents love to spoil the grandkids, so an example would be, they’ll come home late and they’ll ask his kids ‘Hey, do you guys want some ice cream?’ and it’s like 9 pm. And as parents, they would say like ‘oh no, you can’t do that’. We’ve had to let grandpa know, and come to a level of understanding saying, “hey after eight o’clock, can we make sure there will be no more snacks.”
It’s definitely a fine balance between trying to because we’re still learning how to be good parents and we don’t know what the best approach is. Having an agreement with raising our children is fine but at the same time being open-minded that ‘hey, is this really that big of a deal?’, aren’t, our children being able to live in a home where they feel loved? That’s more important versus trying to uphold certain rules. Finding the right balance between trying to have the best parenting approach but at the same time being open enough to know, kind being able to step back and see the big picture and say okay you know, the environment in which they grew up matters more.
Making Time for Yourself and Making Time for Your Loved Ones
You have to have quality time with your spouse. For Tae this has been crucial to find quality time. Having parents and kids there, weeks can go by without him and his wife have their own time. Tae’s wife has been really good at saying ‘hey we need to go for a walk’ or ‘you and I need to go out so we can take advantage of the built-in child care. So at times, they will ask his parents to watch the kids for the evening while they go out to dinner.
It’s one of those things where if they weren’t intentional about making time for themselves, it wouldn’t happen. Having some alone time a couple of times a week lets them talk about what is happening in the household and their lives. It also allows them to talk about how they are feeling. Knowing that this is the challenge of living in a multigenerational household, if you’re not talking to your partner about it this on a regular basis, that’s where things will really fall apart.
Tae is the blogger behind Financial Tortoise. He writes about navigating the intersection between personal finance and being a sandwich generation. Tae and his wife cohabitate with his aging parents while raising their own children and building their careers.
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