money·3 min read

Millennials Meet the Sandwich Generation

sandwich generation and millenials
Design: theSkimm | Photo: iStock
Oct 28, 2021

The Story

Thanks to *growing up* and the pandemic, one survey says millennials are just a couple years away from taking over the "sandwich generation." Aka those stuck in the middle of providing (unpaid) care for both kids and aging relatives.

That sounds uncomfortable.

You're not wrong. Being sandwiched between caregiving responsibilities often comes at the expense of your physical, mental, and financial health. Money-wise, more than half of all survey respondents said they were spending more through the pandemic to care for others. And taking cash away from retirement contributions, emergency savings, and other bills. Some have even worked more hours to earn enough for the added costs.

Yikes. Any way to avoid sandwich generation problems?

You probably don't have a choice about who depends on you. But making 'money talks' a family affair can help.

Start talking with your parents – plus aunts and uncles and anyone else you could be responsible for later – about future caregiving plans, including how to pay for it. Discuss things like life insurance, long-term care insurance, and other estate planning. Kinda awkward and not so fun. But it beats the alternative: the worst happening and figuring out the details on the fly. If you have siblings, older kids or other close family members, get clear on how everyone will pitch in.

Talk to your younger kids about money, too. Having open convos about the family's finances from early on can help them create good money habits. And it'll set clear expectations around big things like who's buying their first car and paying for college.

Also know that acting as a caregiver can be a financial drain. Be sure you have your own safety net in case of the unexpected. Experts recommend setting aside at least three to six months’ worth of expenses (for you and your dependents). For caregiving savings goals you can anticipate ahead of time, start putting money away in a sinking fund.

What if I'm already being sandwiched?

If you're stressing over caregiving-work-life balance, talk to your boss. There may be resources at work that can help lighten your load. Think: flexible hours, WFH options, and family leave. Have that convo ASAP so you know your options.

Oh, and don't forget the deductions and credits that can help you offset the cost of caregiving (hey, child tax credit). You can also open a special FSA account to stash pre-tax dollars for dependent care. You can use it to pay for things like daycare (for kids or seniors), a nanny, and after-school programs.

Anything else?

Don't forget about you. Today and in the future. You may have a million competing responsibilities now, but to free yourself of the work-related ones someday, you'll need retirement savings. In the short-term, be sure to pay attention to your mental health and try to schedule downtime. Because burnout is real.


Caring for your kids and aging parents at the same time is tough. So take advantage of the resources available to help. And don’t forget to put yourself first sometimes. Because you can’t take care of others if you’re not (financially) well.

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