With older Americans living longer and many younger folks saddled with crushing student loan debt by the time they finish college, adults caught in the middle are being referred to as the "sandwich generation" because they are supporting both younger and older family members.
According to Stephanie Galligan, research manager for Filene Research Institute, Madison, Wis., studies have revealed numerous telling statistics – including that Almost half (47%) of adults age 40 to 59 are both supporting a parent 65+ and are raising or supporting a child. Additionally, about 29% of adults between the ages of 29 and 35 live with their parents.
What's most worrisome, said Galligan, speaking during CUNA Mutual Group's annual online Discovery Conference, is that just 63% of the sandwich generation is saving for retirement - below the national average (71%) – and 49% are not building long-term savings for their children, such as educational savings plans.
"These people have less to save, so what happens to them in the future?" Galligan asked.
Half report having a hard time meeting their own household expenses because of the care they are providing to others, Galligan noted. Despite this, 48% say it is difficult to talk with their parents about the support provided.
"This financial pressure is not going away; More than half expect the need for support to continue until the death of a parent or until the money runs out," she said.
These "sandwich" folks understand how to manage money, but Galligan reported the response that came up over and over again in interviews is a need for setting boundaries. "When helping others, people need to know their limits. But this is difficult because you don't want to see a loved one go without food or having their electricity turned off."
What CUs should do to address this issue, she said, is to examine their respective member bases to determine the need for support. After conducting research, Galligan suggested creating a support plan.
"Start with communication," she said. "Make sure these people don't feel alone. Educate them on the possibility of a perpetuating cycle, and let them know the need for savings plans."