Small Business Dollars & Sense
Sandwiched Between Children And Parents? Three Tips To Ease The Squeeze

By Natasha Mata

Should I help my child who wants to move back home after graduating college? Should I contribute to a special-needs trust for my child with autism? Or should I save for my own retirement? Questions like these occur in households everywhere – everyday.

A Wells Fargo/Gallup survey looked at one subset of the sandwich generation – the 47% of investors who have children and at least one living parent. Of this group, we found that 32% provide some type of financial assistance to an adult child, a parent, or both. More than half of this group claims that financial strain hinders their ability to save for their own retirement.

This research indicates that many people find themselves faced with the tough choice of helping a loved one financially or saving for their own financial future. Luckily, there are things you can do to help make facing these decisions a little easier. Below are three tips to help small business owners navigate caring for children and parents while saving for retirement.

Talk early and often about money

Unfortunately, many young adults face paying crippling high-interest debt or dealing with the results of poor financial choices as they learn to “get on their feet.” Talking early and often with our kids will help improve their ability to make sound financial choices. Seniors can also benefit from family conversations about money. These discussions help them better understand their finances and how to manage other available resources. These conversations are essential to working toward a lifetime of financial independence.

Having the courage to discuss these potentially scary issues helps all of us better prepare to make informed decisions that are right for our families.

Plan for the future

Though financial conversations are essential, talking only gets you so far. You have to plan and start taking small steps that can add up over time. It is imperative to understand where you are spending, and how much, before you can identify areas where you can cut back and save. Focusing on tracking and modifying spending habits offers a huge opportunity for members of the sandwich generation to improve their future financial outcomes.

Ask for help

Everyone’s situation is unique and it’s always OK to ask for help. We take our cars in for tune-ups. We have annual physicals to proactively manage our physical wellness. Many of us use travel agents to plan vacations.

When it comes to saving for retirement – especially when you are also financially caring for a child and/or a parent – you don’t have to go it alone, seek out professional advice if you’re unsure about your next best step and learn how you can give yourself more time to save.

Small business owners in the sandwich generation deal with many unique challenges every day – from helping parents navigate medical issues to helping children learn to move out and succeed on their own. By having important money conversations frequently, planning ahead, and asking for help when necessary, those of us who feel “sandwiched” can make the financial responsibility of caring for multiple generations a little less daunting.

(Natasha Mata, a 23-year veteran of Wells Fargo, is region bank president of the greater Central Los Angeles Area, which includes Long Beach and some North Orange County cities.)