Squashed between supporting ageing parents and helping their own children find a steady financial footing, Baby Boomer parents are facing challenges never seen by previous generations and now, there’s a name for it. Welcome to the Sandwich Generation.
Who is the Sandwich Generation?
As tasty as it sounds, The Sandwich Generation isn’t about a people who really like sandwiches. The Sandwich Generation is a termed used to describe people, usually between 50 and 65 years old, who are caring for elderly parents and still supporting their adult children financially. Often, their adult children also have children of their own, increasing the pressure on grandparents who are stuck, or sandwiched, in the middle.
What’s causing the Sandwich Generation?
A few factors are compounding to put pressure on the Sandwich Generation:
We’re living longer.
Australia’s life expectancy is now one of the highest in the world. According ABS data, the standardised death rate for men and women fell over the last decade. However, although we’re living longer, our health is on the decline; recent studies in the Medical Journal of Australia show that quality of life isn’t necessary synonymous with a longer life.
80% of Australians suffer from back pain, and it’s a leading reason older Australians leave the workforce. Data from the Family Caregiver Alliance suggests that over 65% of elderly Australians needing long-term care rely on family to provide that support.
House prices and rent are up
House prices continue to rise and more and more young Australians are delaying getting a mortgage. Nearly 60% of first time home-buyers are now in their 30s and 40s, according to a recent report from the ABC. People are waiting longer to buy their first home, often until they have gotten married and started a family. High home prices and high rents are sending many of them back to their family home to live with Mum & Dad, while they save money to get onto the property ladder.
According to McCrindle Research Group, the Gen Y KIPPERS (Kids in Parents Pockets Eroding Retirement Savings) may be saving up to $15,000/year on rent alone – so there’s a significant financial advantage to moving back in with Mum & Dad.
Sandwich Generation parents are helping their adult children in a number of ways. They’re giving them deposits for houses, paying off debts, providing low-rent or no-rent accommodation and guaranteeing loans; all of which have a significant financial impact.
There are some significant social, emotional and financial drawbacks for those in the Sandwich Generation. Only 1 in 10 of Australia’s elderly live in retirement communities, which means the rest live ‘independently’ with the assistance of family and friends. With more and more Gen Y adult children coming back to the family nest, Sandwich Generation parents are spending big to accommodate them.
In a recent report from the University of Adelaide, the Sandwich Generation (as a whole) gave $22 billion in financial support to the younger generations (their children and grandchildren). This can have a huge impact on the Sandwich Generation’s savings, retirement and aged care plans.
Family comes first
The Sandwich Generation faces unique challenges , as described in this radio segment from FIVEaa, but membership also offers some benefits. Sandwich Generation grandparents are often retired but still able to help with care of the grandchildren, reducing the reliance on paid childcare and providing further savings for the Gen Y parent/future homebuyer. And, looking after the grandkids may improve mental acuity and well-being. A recent University of Melbourne study found that grandparents who look after their grandchildren at least one day a week increased cognitive function and decreased the risk of dementia.
What’s next for future generations
While it’s Baby Boomers currently feeling the squeeze of the Sandwich Generation, Gen X is up next and the trend only looks to continue. If you’re worried about your financial future, perhaps consider consulting a financial advisor to plan ahead for your retirement, especially if you think you’ll be joining the Sandwich Generation. If you’re taking the plunge and entering the market, it’s a good idea to compare home loan providers to find the most financially prudent product to suit your needs – now and into the future.