By Aman Raina, MBA
(Special to Financial Independence Hub)
As an investment coach, my job is to educate and empower people with the knowledge to make informed investment decisions and set them on their journey towards financial freedom. However, over the last several years, I’ve found myself on a unique financial journey of my own.
Several years ago, my father was diagnosed with dementia. As his ability to manage his and my mother’s financial affairs began to diminish, I stepped into the role of their primary caregiver. This responsibility, layered on top of raising my two young boys, growing my investment coaching practice, and navigating a global health emergency, placed me firmly within the Sandwich Generation.
The Sandwich Generation refers to those caught in the middle of caregiving, balancing the needs of aging parents with the needs of their own families. According to a report by the Pew Research Center, nearly half (47%) of U.S. adults in their 40s and 50s fall into the Sandwich Generation. They are responsible for a parent who is 65 or older and either raising a young child or financially supporting a grown child.
In Canada, according to a 2020 report from Statistics Canada, around one in four Canadians aged 15 and older (7.8 million people) provided care to a family member or friend with a long-term health condition, a disability, or problems associated with aging. However, these figures likely underestimate the true prevalence of caregiving, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has increased the demand for home care.
With an aging population, these percentages are predicted to increase in the coming years, further magnifying the importance of addressing the challenges faced by the Sandwich Generation and all caregivers. It has been and continues to be an experience that has been for me mentally, emotionally, and physically stressful, filled with difficult conversations, worries about the future, and moments of feeling overwhelmed.
Despite my financial background, there were times when the responsibilities felt like a juggling act. The multitude of financial decisions to be made, from managing cash flow and long-term care planning for my parents to ensuring the financial stability of my own family, felt daunting. If I was experiencing this, I shudder to think what others who were not as well-versed financially were trying to cope?
Support from Caregiver Groups
In seeking support, I turned to various caregiver groups. It quickly became apparent that many others were grappling with the same challenges. They, too, were struggling to tackle the unique financial demands of being part of the Sandwich Generation.
From my experience, I found the core areas caregivers need to focus on revolved around these critical financial issues:
- Understanding what legal provisions your parents have or haven’t established for managing their affairs (Do they have a will and/or power of attorney?). Having these legal items firmed up was a critical piece when I had to start navigating the maze of financial and health care organizations for my father.
- Understanding your parents’ overall financial position. What do they own and what do they owe? Where are their investments? What are they invested in? As much as we like to believe people have a single bank account, the reality is far from it. I’ve learned and from speaking with other caregivers that our parents were always fearful of losing their money and thought by spreading out their money in multiple accounts in different banks and financial institutions would reduce that risk.
- Evaluating their day-to-day financial position. What money comes in for income and what money goes out to pay expenses? The big giveaway that got me more engaged was discovering bills were not getting paid. The second learning piece was realizing that your belief of expenses you think are important may not necessarily jive with your parents. A lot of it is generational and culturally driven. Unfortunately, it is from there the conflicts ensue.
- Become more familiar with various local/provincial/state and federal government support programs that are available to senior citizens. I was shocked to find out my mother all these years never applied for CPP/OAS benefits. It turned out that the Federal Government recently started a program to literally track down people who haven’t applied and automatically registered for Government benefits. What’s amazing is they calculated her past benefits she missed out on and paid her back.
- Collaborate effectively with your family members to ensure everyone is aligned and understands their roles. Unfortunately, not everyone is, and conflicts can and will emerge. It is this element that creates the most stress and anxiety for caregivers.
- Finally, as we go through this journey, managing our own self-care and personal well-being is critical. It is often the most overlooked, and least prioritized ball that we are juggling. The truth is if this ball falls, the rest of the balls will come crashing as well.
To check off these boxes for me at times felt like I was Indiana Jones searching historical artifacts through my parent’s attics, sheds, shoeboxes and at times having the sun shining on that one critical piece you are searching at the top of an endless mountain of receipts, invoices, and bank statements.
It is daunting, however we MUST empower ourselves to provide the comfort and dignity our loved ones deserve while also securing theirs and our own family’s financial futures. We owe it to ourselves and to them to navigate this challenging journey with knowledge, compassion, and confidence.
Aman Raina is an Investment Coach and Founder of Sage Investors. Aman teaches and engages with new and experienced investors how to make successful investment decision so they can achieve financial freedom in their lives with confidence. Additional financial resources for caregivers can be found at Aging Parent Finances.