The Sandwich Generation: Thoughts from the Middle
Hello, my name is Tim. I’m in my forties. I’m happily married with kids. My mom is a widow in her eighties, and my in-laws are in their seventies. My wife and I are bona fide members of the sandwich generation!
If you haven’t heard the phrase "sandwich generation," let me start with a little background. This phrase was coined by two women, Dorothy Miller and Elaine Brody, in 1981, and refers to a group of individuals who are simultaneously caring for both their aging parents and their young children. The Pew Research Center profiles the sandwich generation as adults "who have a living parent age 65 or older and are either raising a child under the age of 18 or supporting a grown child." Typically, it includes adults in their 40s or 50s.
Generation X, born between 1965 and 1980, is fully qualified to call itself the sandwich generation. Please welcome Generation Y, aka the Millennials, who are just joining us, having been born starting in 1981.
Say it together now: "Hello, our name is Generation X and Y, and we are in the sandwich generation."
The financial challenges Generations X and Millennials face from the middle of the sandwich are many. In my own life, my wife and I are dealing with questions and concerns regarding:
- Our Parents
- Our Kids
- Communication with Parents
- Communication with Kids
- Communication with Spouses and Partners
The Happiness Curve, Sandwich Blues and Alignment
One of the most important books that I read in my early 40’s was Jonathan Rauch’s “The Happiness Curve: Why Life Gets Better After Midlife.”¹ I was looking for answers on why midlife felt so cruel and unforgiving during a difficult stretch in my life.
My father had recently passed away unexpectedly, and my father-in-law was diagnosed with an incurable brain tumor around the same time. I was navigating a stressful job situation, as my company was facing a necessary reorganization due to changes in our senior leadership and the industry at large.
My kids were eight and 10 years old at the time. I needed to be emotionally present for them, but I was trying to navigate my grief and stress on top of the financial pressures given the uncertainty that my company was facing. I needed to be strong for my wife who was grieving her own father’s illness, and for my mother who was now a widow. It was a heavy period.
My story is not unique to most of us in the Sandwich Generation; it just happened to me in a condensed period of time. Now that I am a few years removed from this difficult phase, I have gained significant life experience and perspective. I feel that I am stronger, wiser and battle tested for the inevitable future challenges that life will bring me.
The idea of the Happiness Curve is that our lifetime happiness is shaped like a U curve. We are generally happy in childhood and our young adult years as we are ambitious, energetic and optimistic (and let’s face it, a bit naïve). We then go through a long period of declining happiness in our 30’s and our 40’s as emotional and financial pressures mount. This is often due to the juggling act of busy work schedules, raising kids and caring for aging parents. In addition, as we hit our 40’s, we may feel regret for things in life we did not achieve, as well as disappointment when we compare ourselves to others who appear more successful, wealthier and happier. Social media only adds an extra kick to the private parts.
Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC) Can Be Tax-Deductible! Find Out How To Save on Taxes
Many of my elder care plans are related to choosing the right retirement community. And some of those communities are continuing care retirement communities, also known as CCRCs. A CCRC differs from traditional retirement communities a handful of ways.
- They tend to be on a larger campus-like setting.
- Residents generally enjoy more club and trip offerings, as well as amenities (like a pool).
- They target independent seniors who don’t immediately need elder-care services.
- Once care is needed, they not only have assisted living and memory care, but often offer rehab and skilled care services on campus as well.
- They generally have a large “buy-in*” which for some can immediately determine the affordability of this option. The terms of the buy-in vary between each community.
- Because you’re “buying-in” you usually have the opportunity to customize your apartment by choosing preferred flooring, paint color, countertop, window treatments, and more prior to move-in (this somewhat depends on your willingness to pay extra and the condition of existing materials).
*Many people refer to the upfront fee as a buy-in, but it’s also described as an entry fee or deposit. You’re really leasing the unit, not buying it, which is why I’m quoting the phrase. Generally, if any refund is due it’s based on what was paid in, not it’s eventual value. The timing of any refund may be delayed until the unit is fully vacated and leased to a new resident.
Now that we’ve covered what a CCRC is, I’m going to discuss how you may be able to save a bit on taxes if considering this style of community. You may potentially be able to deduct a portion of the initial buy-in and ongoing rent.
I’ve looked at many CCRCs locally and throughout the country. While they are roughly the same as described above, they all differ a bit in how they eventually deliver and charge for care. And this is the first determination for tax-deductibility. The second determination is related to your own financial circumstances.
Second Opinions: When To Call a Doctor vs a Medical Advocate
I'm questioning my diagnosis and treatment options...
You may have recently received a diagnosis or treatment option that is keeping you up at night. Before panicking, maybe the next best step is getting a second opinion or seek out the opinion of a specialist.
Reasons for a second opinion include, but are not limited to:
- Treatment proposal was positioned as standard but typically ineffective.
- Treatment proposal is cutting edge but risky. A bit beyond your comfort zone.
- Treatment proposal is expensive and not covered by insurance.
- Diagnosis is serious but somewhat unsubstantiated, it’s a “best guess.”
- Diagnosis is serious but symptoms can be attributed to other issues.
- Diagnosis seems correct but there a many different schools of thought for treatment.
In my opinion these types of questions warrant a doctor’s second opinion, and there are a few avenues to achieve this…
First is simply asking your doctor for a recommendation to receive a second opinion. Your doctor *should* welcome the idea of a second opinion to confirm their findings. My concern, personally, would be they refer to someone too like-minded. But you could be clear that you’re looking for doctors that have a different approach if that’s what you’re seeking. The second is to work through insurance, friends, or networks to find well respected and covered doctors within the field. The third, if financially feasible, is to hire a concierge doctor to thoroughly review your medical history and develop a strategic plan on how to move forward. This is all perfectly reasonable, especially when trying to firm up a diagnosis or pursuing known treatment options that your initial doctor isn’t recommending. Generally speaking, I find this overall scenario the way my younger clients (and self) think because health scares are generally preventative, non-life threatening, or fairly routine.
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