Adults in their 30s – 50s have parents age 65 and older and are either raising a young child or financially supporting a grown child. With an aging population and a generation of young adults struggling to achieve financial independence, this stress takes a toll not only on personal relationships but also affects the relationship with their spouse, children, and family. But living in a sandwich generation can also provide you with benefits.
If you’re living in a multi-generational household, you must listen to this series. In today’s episode, we’ll talk about what exactly is the sandwich generation and what issues are you going to face if you’re taking care of both your parents and your own children.
My guest today, Tae Kim, is a blogger. He writes about navigating the intersection between personal finance and being part of the sandwich generation. Tae and his wife live with their aging parents while raising their own children and building their careers.
How Their Sandwich Generation Started
Tae and his wife have been cohabiting with their parents for about six years now, so what triggered it was actually when his wife was pregnant with their first. Like any young parents, they were trying to figure out what to do with child care. Tae’s father approached them and said, “Hey, I know you guys are thinking about wanting to get a house, we can help out with the down payment but we come with the house”. So, they took the offer, and it was also an opportunity for them to lower their housing costs as well as spend time with the grandkids and help them out.
The Usefulness of Being in a Sandwich Generation
When Tae and his parents started cohabiting together it was very useful, especially when his mother was around. You trust your mother much more than a stranger that you hire. But they still did hire a helper for her, because it has been physically hard for Tae’s mother to take care of an infant. But then just the fact that she was there, watching over about everything gave them a lot of comforts. That definitely was a huge benefit of living together, because Tae said they would have been scrambling in the morning to either have an in house nanny or like drop the kids off out at a different location.
It Can Help Ease the Burden at Home
Tae’s parents help out with dropping them their kids and picking them up on the days that Tae and his wife were not around, but because they do not have to watch the kids all day, it’s not physically draining. So it’s really just helping out with our morning and the afternoon, but for them, it’s a huge help. Just the fact that someone can, when the kids wake up, help with just dressing them, feeding them, dropping off to school, and picking them up, that’s a huge help, as they are able to focus on their careers because it would be really challenging. Tae tried doing what their parents did when his parents weren’t around for about a week. He tried dropping the kids off at school and picking them up, and it was so stressful.
The Sandwich Generation Energizes Your Parents
To see your parents strong when you’re younger and then to see them getting weaker as they get older gives a great deal of impact in you. But when they are with their grandchildren, you just kinda see this sense of liveliness, that just they can be children again and that just gave them a sense of energy that just increases when being around younger children who are also energetic.
Being a member of the sandwich generation can offer a wide variety of benefits to all the members of your family, but that doesn’t mean you need to take on all of these responsibilities on your own. As time goes by, things change and so will your life’s circumstances. Find out as much as you can about balancing your life during the sandwich years.
About Our Co-Host
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 paid off $105,000 student loans in 3.5 years while growing their families, cohabiting with his aging parents, and building their careers.
Mentioned in This Episode:
This post of Retirement and Retirement Lifestyle first appeared on https://RockYourRetirement.com
Transcription for this episode.
Kathe Kline 0:08
Welcome back to the Rock Your Retirement Show. I’m your host, Kathe Kline. And today we have Tae Kim in this series from the sandwich generation. Now, if you listened last week, you know that Tae is coming from the perspective of a 30-something who has small children.
Most of my listeners are probably on the other end of that. You’re probably in the grandparents section. So, if you are living, or want to consider living in a multigenerational household, you must listen to this series. If you didn’t listen to last week’s show, you might want to head on over there and listen to it first. In last week’s episode, we spoke about what the sandwich generation is and what issues you might face if you are a 30-something, and you’re taking care of both your parents and your own children. But we also looked at it from the perspective of the grandparents, the people who listen to the show. What could you expect if you wound up moving in with your children, it can help you and your children save money, and so you can both have a better life. Today we’re going to be talking about six lessons for the sandwich generation. Next week we’ll talk about the pros and cons of multigenerational living. And in the fourth episode, we’ll discuss tips for living in a multigenerational household. This includes things like planning ahead and organizing shared expenses. So if you are considering moving in with your children, or if you know someone who’s having financial challenges, then this series is for you. My guest today is a blogger who writes about finances and also being in the sandwich generation. Tae and his wife cohabitate with his aging parents while raising their own small children and building their careers.
But before we start, I wanted to tell you that this episode is brought to you by the Medicare Quick Step by Step Guide for Signing up for Medicare. The Step by Step Guide is absolutely free and will help you easily make the transition into Medicare. Get it free at Medicarequick.com/checklist. Tae, thank you so much for coming back. And let’s talk now about the article that we’re discussing, which is called “The Six Lessons for the Sandwich Generation”. And I didn’t know, that you could probably have written this article. I’ve got it pulled up on my screen right now, the listener, we’re testing a program that allows Tae and I to view the same thing at the same time so we can talk about the article. One of the things that it says in the very beginning, is that you and your parents should talk about money. Is it something that you and your parents have done?
Tae Kim 3:11
Not exactly, but we are aware of each other’s finances. I think the importance of what the article is talking about is you want to have as much information as possible on both ends. So the way my wife and I started living together with my parents, as we referred to in the last episode, a good part of it was finances. My wife and I, live in Orange County, Southern California, where housing is very expensive. My wife and I, are typical millennial. We started off our marriage, about eight years ago, with $105,000 in student loans.
Kathe Kline 3:52
Wow, that’s $105,000. That’s incredible.
Tae Kim 3:58
Yeah, not the smartest decision. It’s a funny story, my wife and I were engaged, I remember my wife, wanted to have a serious conversation. And she said, can I tell you something? And I said was like, what is it? And it was super serious. I was like, Oh my goodness, have you been married before? Do you have a kid somewhere? And she says, I have $15,000 in student loans. And I have $90,000. So I responded back, Ha ha, don’t worry honey, I have $90,000. I see your 15, I countered that with my 90.
Kathe Kline 4:32
Tae, were you concerned that if she was so concerned about $15,000 that she might not want to marry you since you had $90,000?
Tae Kim 4:40
She already said yes. It was after we got engaged.
Kathe Kline 4:45
So she couldn’t take the engagement back, that’s it.
Tae Kim 4:49
She could have, but thankfully she didn’t. Thankfully, she committed to the burden that I was bringing to the marriage.
Kathe Kline 4:57
Now you have a great story about what you did after you Got married. You are a follower of somebody who helps people get out of debt. Do you want to tell that story?
Tae Kim 5:06
Yes, yes. So thankfully right after we got married, we went to a Dave Ramsey conference, here in California. He came out to Long Beach, California. And prior to going his to his conference, I think I had a very skewed perspective about money. My family came from Korea when I was eight years old. With a lot of immigrant families, money management wasn’t something that we discussed in the house. Money was always tight, and we knew that, but from my parents perspective, their advice to be successful, was go to college, you know, study hard, go to college, get a good job, and, good luck after that. So, we follow that template. But I came into the working world without understanding how a credit score worked, what good debt or bad debt was, how to invest, nothing like that. So, of course, in my 20’s, I made all of the wrong decisions. I bought a brand new car, I leased furniture, I leased an apartment that I couldn’t afford. And so by the time I went to graduate school, and we entered into our marriage, and listening to Dave Ramsey, where, he calls you out on all these dumb decisions that I made. It just kind of really, really triggered something for both my wife and I, that we had to get our act together. So, we dialed back everything. We decided that we were going to live off one income and use the other to pay down the loan. We were able to pay down the $105,000 in about three and a half years.
Kathe Kline 6:43
Oh my gosh, that’s incredible. In three and a half years.
Tae Kim 6:48
Yeah, when we reflect on it, it was definitely, both a blessing and a curse because it was emotionally overwhelming, but at the same time, it taught us such a good money management skill. Knowing how to live off a budget, knowing how to save, knowing how to say no to a lot of things. And honestly, it’s hard, especially living in Orange County, where, you see just this affluence everywhere, or this perspective of affluence everywhere.
Kathe Kline 7:20
Keeping up with the Jones’.
Tae Kim 7:21
Yeah, definitely, definitely. So it definitely taught us good money management skills. Since then, after having paid off our student loans, we’ve definitely have been able to get into a better financial position. And during that time, we also had our children which triggered the decision to live, start cohabiting with my parents. I think for us, having this good financial management skill has really helped us tremendously as regards to not only take care of our kids, but then to an extent be able to provide overhead support for my parents.
Kathe Kline 8:00
So, I have a question. First I want to tell the listener who Dave Ramsey is, just in case you haven’t heard. Dave Ramsey has a very popular radio show and podcast where people come in and he helps them figure out how to get out of debt. His main thing is, cut your expenses to the bone. Get a second job. Don’t use credit. That’s kind of what he preaches. But also people come onto the show and they yell, I’m debt free. Did you get to do that I’m debt free. yell?
Tae Kim 8:39
No, no, I mean, we thought about it after we paid it off. But I think we were too shy.
Kathe Kline 8:49
Great. Now when your parents moved in with you, so let’s say I’m 65 or 66 years old, and I’ve made this great offer to my children that I will basically give them the downpayment, and to the listener, if you want to know the whole story, just listen to the first episode of the series. Did you know about their finances? They knew that you were in debt. Did you ask them about their finances? Do you know anything about their finances now?
Tae Kim 9:25
Yeah, I think I definitely know more now. We didn’t have a formal sit down. And, let’s kind of open up everything. But what I’ve noticed is as we started living together, my parents have deferred some of the decision making to both my wife and I. So I think through that, subtly, we’ve learned more about their finances. But growing up as an immigrant family, my parents didn’t know anything about retirement savings, 401 K’s, Roth IRAs, nothing like that. I knew they didn’t have any of that. Whatever money that they saved was really the downpayment that they have for this home. Right now, with my parents. I know my mom, she receives Social Security. My father has a small printing business where he generates some income from that, but he’s also living off primarily Social Security, but their primary saving was pretty much in this home. So, that was thankfully, their offer which was, Hey, you know, we’ll help you with the downpayment. But, you know, with the caveat that we come with the home and you guys take care of all, you know, the majority of the overhead expenses.
Kathe Kline 10:32
Hmm. Okay, you know, it sounds like you’re sharing information, but it’s not formal.
Tae Kim 10:39
Yeah. And I kind of scratched my head what the best way was to approach a lot of these conversations at times, just because there’s a fine line of trying to balance, hey, I need to know everything, but while respecting my parents independence. So I think definitely living together We’re able to have more natural organic conversations where I learn more, but I don’t know if I could sit down with them and be like, alright, let’s learn everything.
Kathe Kline 11:11
Here. Let me get out my pencil.
Tae Kim 11:14
Yeah, one of the ways that I’ve been able to have more conversations with them, is my wife and I, are going through our will and trust process for just the two of us, for our kids. So, that’s one of the ways that I’ve been able to kind of bring up the topic with my parents because they don’t have a will or a trust set up.
Kathe Kline 11:32
That brings me, I just want to remind the listener what article we’re discussing, because I don’t think, I said that at the beginning of the show. We are going through an article written in 2015. It’s called “How to Manage Your Parents, Your Kids and Your Sanity”. So, the first part of the article talks about finances and then, the author, Charles passy, I believe is how he pronounces it, talks about Seeking out the right professionals and organizations. And, he talks about, is that estate plan and getting things in place. So, rather than just going to your parents and saying, hey, what’s your estate plan, do you have a power of attorney? I want it you’re doing it and then leading them by example.
Tae Kim 12:19
Right? Yeah, and we just had this last couple weeks where I come home and I tell my dad, hey, we just came back from meeting with an estate lawyer. It was very informative. We learned about this, and this, and this. And that naturally segway’s into what have you thought about your estate plan? You know, of any lawyer, any Korean speaking lawyer? I think those are ways where we can have more of that conversation and more of those information out open without forcing them to be like, Hey, we got a, we got to talk about this.
Kathe Kline 12:52
That’s great.That is great. Okay, let’s say what are some of the other things that they talked about? Now this next one, it does say make time for yourself. Now, my experience is the wife, that could be different with millennials, but the wife, the burden, in my generation is on the wife. So if I were, let’s say I had children and I want to move in with one of them, the conflict would generally be between me and the daughter in law. Are you finding that to be the case as well?
Tae Kim 13:28
Oh, definitely. Yes. it’s funny, I mean, it’s been six years and both my wife and I, when we are able to kind of reflect upon what’s happened, we are able to wisely say, oh, we know, we’ve grown a lot. But, there’s a lot of times where I come home and I could see it in my wife’s eyes like oh, no, what happened between you and mom? It’s, like, oh, the kitchen knife, I placed it here. How come your mom always moves it over here.
Kathe Kline 14:03
It seems like your wife is always bringing up this knife situation.
Tae Kim 14:09
It’s the knife, it’s the ladle, there’s always something, it’s definitely where, the kitchen I think we joke around how it’s like the battleground because, we have one kitchen and it’s a commingling space. It’s utilized by a lot of people. It’s been a challenge.
Kathe Kline 14:29
Do you have a solution for the kitchen, or is it still a work in progress?
Tae Kim 14:32
It’s a work in progress. And we have some agreements that we come with, my mom, as regards to, for example, in the refrigerator, we would say, okay, these two top sections, please don’t put anything here. This is for us. So then my wife knows that if she bought something from the grocery store, she always knows those are in those two sections. And then you know, we have to keep reinforcing it. Even though my parents are like, Okay, Okay, I get it. But you know, we have to keep reinforcing it. So I think what’s helped out was just having different sections around the house that are identified, as you know, these are our areas, or these are your areas and in the shared areas, kind of identifying what are the subsections, in which, you know, this is where we want to keep ours and this is where you keep your items. So, those agreements have definitely helped out.
Kathe Kline 15:27
Are there agreements regarding the children? How they’re being raised. Has there been any arguments because you did bring in your parents for financial reasons, but it turned out that they are now also helping to co-raise your children. Have there been disagreements about children aren’t allowed this, and then the grandparents give them that, or for whatever reason.
Tae Kim 15:49
Definitely, definitely. I mean, grandparents love to spoil the grandkids. An example would be, he’ll come home late and my kids, their names are Jonathan and Katherine, they will be like, hey, Jonathan and Katherine, do you guys want some ice cream? And it’s 9pm at night? And we are like, Oh, no, no, he can’t do that. So, we’ve had to let grandpa know, like come to a level of agreement saying, hey after eight o’clock can we make sure we’re not giving them any snacks.
Kathe Kline 16:19
Tae Kim 16:20
Yeah, especially sugar, because they are not going to go to sleep.
Kathe Kline 16:23
Or you just let them, you know, just make them both sleep in grandpa and grandma’s rooms if they’re all loaded up on sugar. Okay, you’re over there tonight.
Tae Kim 16:32
Right, you have to deal with it. But it’s definitely a fine balance because one of the things that we talk about is that we’re still learning how to be good parents. We don’t know what the best approach is coming to an agreement, 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. And, you know, to be honest at times, like we’re not even sure that, that rule is the best rule. So I think it’s just finding that right balance between trying to have the best parenting approach, but at the same time being open enough to know, kind of be able to step back and see the big picture and say, okay, you know, the environment in which they grew up matters more.
Kathe Kline 17:25
Speaking of environment, what about the relationship with your wife and you? How has that changed? I mean, obviously, relationships change when there’s children, but what about when there are children and parents in the home? Do you have a lock on your bedroom door? How How do you deal with that?
Tae Kim 17:43
Yeah, our bedroom door does lock. So, thankfully, the house that we we live at is four bedrooms, the rooms are spaced out enough, where we’re not right next to each other. So, there’s two rooms on the one side of the house and two rooms on the other. My parents, you see, have the two rooms on one side of the house and we have the two rooms on the other. So there’s a physical distance between the two. And we know, if we we are going to enter into their space, we knock, we let them know that this is not our space. This is not like the kitchen where we can go in anytime. So, coming to that arrangement, coming to that agreement of knowing what’s private space and what’s shared space, that was very important.
Kathe Kline 18:27
Well, that’s good. And it’s good that it seems to be working.
Tae Kim 18:31
Yeah, yeah. I mean, I think once again, I referd to the kitchen earlier, the shared space battleground. There’s no perfect agreement. I think we try to come to an agreement that works for both of us.
Kathe Kline 18:43
Maybe something, a little kitchenette in that second room, in the parents area, might be a good way to deal with that.
Tae Kim 18:52
Yeah, I mean, we’ve definitely thought about it. We have a lot of discussions as regards to the finances, like, oh, it’d be great if they had this in their area, like your separate kitchenette but do we want to invest $10,000 there? Or do you want to save that, so we can have the flexibility down the line. So those are the trade off discussions that we have.
Kathe Kline 19:11
Well, if it’s only $10,000, I think that would be a bargain.
Tae Kim 19:15
Right, right, yeah.
Kathe Kline 19:19
I could be wrong, but I don’t think you could put in a kitchenette for $10,000.
Tae Kim 19:22
Like a really tiny kitchenette.
Kathe Kline 19:25
Maybe you could buy a burner at Costco and a small refrigerator. So yeah, it sounds like you’re still a work in progress when it comes to getting things worked out. What are some of the other issues that maybe the article didn’t go over that you’ve come across.
Tae Kim 19:42
The article talks about making time for yourself and making time for your loved ones. I think having quality time with my wife, I think that’s been crucial, like intentional quality time, just because having my parents there, having our children there. If we are not intentional weeks can go by without us having our own time. My wife’s really good at alerting me, saying hey, we need to go for a walk, or you and I need to go out. We can take advantage of the built in childcare. So we would ask my parents, can you just watch the kids for just an evening while we go out for dinner? It’s one of those things where if we’re not intentional about it, it wouldn’t happen, having alone time a couple of times a week, debrief about what happened, talk about the kitchen knife.
Kathe Kline 20:32
Tae Kim 20:33
How she feels about it, talking about the feeling in which I’m not in control. Knowing that this is the challenge of living in a multigenerational household. If you’re not talking to your partner about this on a regular basis, that’s where things can really fall apart.
Kathe Kline 20:46
Right. Now, what about your parents? Do they schedule their alone time as well? Do they have a date night?
Tae Kim 20:53
Oh, yeah, I mean, I think when I was referring to how rules have reversed, it’s funny because they would go out and do their thing. And it’s like nine o’clock at night. And I’m asking them, hey, you guys are late. Where are you? You shouldn’t be out this late. So it’s interesting because, we joke around alot. I feel like we have four kids in this house. They’re adults, they’re pretty good about spending time with each other. They’re very involved in the, we live in a community where there’s a large Korean population. And the church is a pretty big hub for the Korean community. So they spend a lot of time at the church. That’s their community, which we recognize as so important. Just that sense of being around people with a similar life stage is so important for them.
Kathe Kline 21:44
That’s great. Now your parents are still relatively young. They’re the same age as much of my audience, but in ten years or so they may or may not be driving. One of the nice things about living in today’s society is we have Uber, Lyft and probably in ten years we’ll have self driving cars. Have you given much thought to the future and what your life is gonna look like having your parents live it in your home?
Tae Kim 22:12
Yeah, it’s a, my wife and I, we discussed a lot about, what the next ten years would look like, especially with our parents. I think there’s a lot of unknowns. But I think what we’ve come to agreement is that, as we’ve noticed how our parents become more subtly dependent upon us, we are going to need to so we’re looking at it from a financial perspective, we want to be financially prepared so that when that time comes where they might need more support from one of us wether it’s driving them around or being at home more often, one of us could, leave our jobs or take a temporary time off our jobs and it will be okay. It wouldn’t have a detrimental effect on us. So I think we’re thinking from that perspective, because we’ll never be fully prepared, I don’t think for what kind of support my parents are going to need but it’s inevitable. So I think that we’re just trying to financially be best prepared as possible for that.
Kathe Kline 23:09
That’s great. Well, I am so glad that you were able to come on the show again. And next week, we’re going to be talking about an article written by Melissa, I don’t have a last name, but it’s called “Multigenerational Living for you, What are the Pros and Cons” and we already discussed some of the pros and cons, but we’re hoping that the article will bring in some new thought processes in your own quest of whether or not you should do the same thing that Tae’s parents did. Offer to help out with the finances and potentially help out with the child care as well. Tae, thank you so much for coming on the show again, I really appreciate it.
Tae Kim 23:55
Great, thank you Kathe.
Kathe Kline 23:57
And for the listener, we’ll see you next time. On rock, Your Retirement. Hey, this is just a shout out to Glenna Davis, and she has been a big supporter of mine on Patreon and Glenna, if you’re listening, I just wanted to thank you.