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Financial Advice for the "Sandwich Generation"

Many members of the Baby Boom generation are trying to balance supporting a parent while also raising children or providing financial help to an adult child, according to the Pew Research Center. Several factors make it likely that this trend will continue. People are living longer, so there’s a greater chance that our parents will need our help as they age. And, once children reach adulthood, they increasingly face hefty college tuition debt and are turning to their parents for economic assistance. That can put a squeeze on adults in their middle years, often known as the “Sandwich Generation.” The Texas Society of CPAs recommends that this group take a number of steps to cope with competing financial demands.

SET UP A COLLEGE FUND
In the last decade, tuition and fees rose 54% at four-year public universities and 33% at four-year private colleges, according to the College Board. Given steadily rising tuition costs, CPAs advise parents to begin setting aside money as early as possible for this significant expense and to investigate tax-advantaged savings options such as 529 plans.

EDUCATE YOURSELF ABOUT YOUR PARENTS’ FINANCES
Adult children often are reluctant to question their parents about money, but it’s important to understand our parents’ financial situation so that we are prepared to help them when they need it. Ideally, you want to determine what they receive in pension and Social Security payments and how much they have in savings. Find out about their fixed expenses, too, such as mortgage or rent and utilities payments. Don’t forget to consider medical expenses, including the cost of health care insurance, medications, and provisions for emergencies. It may feel awkward to ask your parents about these details, but when you are informed you are in a better position to help. You can use this information to gain a broader sense of how their needs may affect your own financial situation.

INVESTIGATE LONG-TERM-CARE INSURANCE
Family finances often are devastated by a lengthy nursing home stay or in-home care costs for a loved one. That’s why it’s important to find out whether your parents have long-term-care insurance that will cover these expenses. If they are not paying for this insurance themselves, check to see if it is part of their former employers’ retirement package. If they’re not covered, explore your options and consider whether this insurance would be a wise choice.

DON’T NEGLECT YOUR OWN NEEDS
You can’t help others if you’re not on firm financial footing yourself, so remember to continue to set aside money for your own retirement. Be sure to take advantage of tax-deferred savings options, such as your employer’s 401(k) plan or an individual retirement account in order to maximize your earnings. By focusing on your retirement, you’ll set the foundation for a secure financial future and ensure that your own children will not have to help you in your later years. 

As part of their 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy initiative, CPAs have created a special site that addresses financial concerns at every life stage. Go to www.360financialliteracy.org to learn more about the special issues facing this group. And remember that your local CPA can offer you advice on all the financial challenges facing your family.

(Updated 2015) Reviewed and edited by Ben Simiskey, CPA, PLS Advisory, LLC

Copyright, The American Institute of CPA