Even before the pandemic arrived in Canada, those in their 40s and 50s who were raising children while caring for ageing parents - often called the “sandwich generation” - faced a difficult task. However, the challenges inherent in caregiving and parenting have only increased during the pandemic, leaving many to search for a way to avoid the "squeeze" of being sandwiched between two generations they care deeply about.
In fact, 36 percent of Canadians who identify as belonging to the sandwich generation don’t believe they’ll recover from the financial strains of the pandemic.1 Luckily, there are some steps one can take to lessen, or even mitigate, some of that strain.
Know Your Parents Wishes
For those who are "sandwiched," gathering information about your parents' financial needs and wishes can seem daunting. But, knowing what their retirement plans may entail can help you both navigate the years ahead with less stress and financial hardship. It's also important that you understand the financial resources your parents have at their disposal. It can be tempting to forgo the assistance of a financial professional at this stage in the process, but this is actually one of the best times to seek their aid. Often, they can help you map out a strategy for the coming years, thanks to their experience and knowledge.
It's also crucial that ageing parents understand that it's okay to keep some things to the side. It can be difficult for older generations to have an open conversation about their financial health. Still, the more they share about their finances, the better-prepared everyone will be for the years to come.
Gather Your Documents
Establishing a Power of Attorney in addition to a traditional will can create a web of medical and financial, and legal directives that will serve you and your family well. Think of the Power of Attorney as a sort of living will that is often used when confronted with medical issues or emergencies.
This differs from a traditional will, which designates the eventual disbursement of assets.
Conversations around these topics can be uncomfortable, but speaking with parents about these documents can often open the door for a more frank discussion of finances as well.
It's important to keep in mind that provincial variances exist when it comes to estate planning documents. If you live in Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec or Nova Scotia, you can create a living will.
However, in other parts of Canada, a living will may also be called:2
- Power of Attorney for personal care
- Advance health care directive
Create an Emergency Fund
Putting as much as you can manage away for a rainy day or emergency is also a great way to help avoid the "squeeze." Although this isn't a new concept by any means, creating and growing your emergency savings can help pay for a number of your priorities.
There's no way to know exactly what the future will bring for you, your children and your parents. Having a backup fund like this can help with everything from mitigating stress to enabling you to take time off from work if needed. The key is establishing your rainy day fund before you need it.
It may also be helpful to speak to your financial professional about what services are available from federal or provincial institutions, which often provide support for seniors and their families. The Manitoba Primary Care Giver Tax credit is just one example of the kind of assistance available to those in need.
Be Kind to Yourself
Finally, it’s important that you stay aware of the mental and emotional toll being a caretaker may have on you. A recent study by the University of Alberta shows that Canadians providing help to their elders can lose a collective $337 million in employment-related disruptions each year as they work fewer hours or take stress leave as a result of caregiving responsibilities.3
Taking the time you need for your own well-being can feel selfish sometimes but is absolutely crucial when caring for others. Additionally, it may be helpful to think of your financial and legal professionals as a means to mitigate further stress. After all, having a strategy in place and knowing what comes next can be one of the most helpful parts of working with experts in these fields.