Generation X has some problems—and not just their own. Perhaps the biggest one of all is that this group has everyone else’s problems too! On one hand, they’re dealing with aging parents. On the other hand, they have young kids, college-aged kids, or adult kids who are moving back home or need financial support because they can’t find a decent job post-college. And all this is happening right when stressed-out GenXers are in mid-career and trying desperately to build their own net worth.
If you’re in your late 30s, 40s, or early 50s, you know the scenario well. Your career is in full swing, and even if you are making a great salary, it seems money is just flying out the door. If you have kids, they’re more expensive than ever (who knew $100 cell phone bills, iPhones, laptops, and SAT prep camps would be part of the new parenting equation?) and college costs are skyrocketing more each year. Your house is another story. Even if you were lucky enough to purchase a home (or at least refinance) in today’s low interest rate environment, you’re still paying a higher percentage of your income than previous generations toward housing. And if you’ve been in the same place for a while, renovations can throw another blow to your budget. But it doesn’t stop there. You are the “sandwich generation.” Your parents are aging…and they need your help. According to the Pew Research Center, about one in seven GenXers is providing financial support to both a child and an aging parent. From helping your parents through illnesses, to getting them set up on Medicare, finding great assisted care, selling their real estate, and more, the tasks you have to tackle seem endless.
It’s exhausting just thinking about it. As an advisor, one of my most important roles is helping my GenX clients juggle these overwhelming responsibilities today while also planning for the future. Because no matter how mired you are in today’s challenges, your own retirement could be an even bigger problem—unless you plan well today. To help make the juggling as easy as possible (let’s face it: it will never be easy!), here are my top five tips for getting through the “sandwich generation dilemma” with your sanity in tact:
- Take care of yourself first. With so much responsibility for others, it’s easy to forget to take care of you. But just like we’re told to put on our own oxygen mask first before helping others, it’s vital that you keep yourself healthy too. Get your annual physical. Get a flu shot. And see your medical team when something isn’t quite right. These are the years when preventive care makes a huge difference in your health today (so you can take care of everyone else) and helps to ensure your wellbeing as you age.
- Start thinking about how you want to define “retirement.” Unlike your parents, you probably don’t see yourself retiring at 62. You expect to live a longer, healthier life, and you may be planning to keep working much later or start a second or even third career—something that invigorates you and keeps you socially, intellectually, and physically active later in life. You want to play by your own rules, but that takes money. Which leads us to…
- Invest in yourself now so you can buy your independence and dignity later. Let’s face it: money is the key to independence. Once you’re ready to move on from your current career, you’ll want to have the assets to support your “non-retirement” dreams in the future. Whether investing in yourself means earning an advanced degree, nurturing a talent, or simply putting a percentage of today’s salary into a “next career” bucket, being proactive now can help you make your dreams come true down the road.
- Lower your stress by getting your financial “house” in order. If you’re like most GenXers, your finances could be in better shape, in part because you’re money is so tied up in everything from your kids’ college tuition to your parents’ medical bills. That might be why 68% of GenXers report that they don’t have a good handle on cash flow, 53% don’t pay off their credit cards regularly, and 23% pay late fees. While changing this behavior may feel like one more thing to add to your to-do list, it will save you time—and stress—in the long run.
- Keep an eye on your endgame. Yes, all this juggling can feel overwhelming, but it’s vital that you attack your finances with gusto as soon as possible. Don’t just get your parent’s estate documents squared away—tackle your own as well. Make sure your money is working for you every day, and be sure you have adequate insurance in place to protect your assets and your family. Just like taking care of your health, making your finances a top priority can help lower your stress, give you more time to spend with your family, and ensure you have the financial strength to keep all those balls in the air.
Need help with the financial piece of the puzzle? Contact me to schedule a time to review your specific situation. Together we can plan for the future—your own, your kids’, and your parents’.