November 29, 2011 | By: Laurie Campbell

Unsavory ingredients of the Sandwich Generation.

Embarrassment. No spirit for romance.

Both highlight what money worries are doing to a lot of Canadians in the Sandwich Generation, according to a recent survey commissioned by Credit Canada and Capital One Canada. Sandwichers – or those between the ages of 40 and 60 who are caught in the middle of supporting both a child and aging parents – are a stressed out bunch, the survey reveals.

Consider Canadians with a family income of less than $50,000 who help to support an aging parent. Among those in this group who share a romantic relationship, 70 per cent report that the relationship is suffering as a result of financial and emotional stress. Meanwhile, four in ten Sandwichers are concerned they will have to financially support their aging parents in the future. Yet most (82 per cent) are not yet prepared – or fear they’ll never be prepared - to do so.

Compounding this lack of preparation, the majority of Canadians (54 per cent) in the Sandwich Generation have not talked with their aging parents about their ability to support themselves in the future.  Being uncomfortable or embarrassed about the subject was the main reason cited by almost 40 per cent of Sandwichers. Surprisingly, the survey also found that the more money people make, the more embarrassed they become.

And there were further findings.

• Of those Canadians in the Sandwich Generation who are already financially supporting their aging parents, almost half (48 per cent) were not financially prepared to do so.

• A staggering 70 per cent of Canadians in the Sandwich Generation aged 40 to 50 are concerned that they will not be able to properly support their aging parents if or when the need arises.

• A third of Canadians in this group provide support of more than $500 a month.

• Two-thirds of the Sandwich Generation are going deeper into debt to support both their children and an aging parent.

So what are we to make of all this?

Well, for this year’s fifth annual Credit Education Week Canada – which recently focused on the Sandwich Generation – sound words of advice came from the President of Capital One Canada, Rob Livingston.

“We want to encourage families to talk to each other about their finances so they have a clear view of their parents’ savings plan, and so they have transparency into any outstanding money they might owe. Simply put, communication is key to ensuring everyone has a clear picture of what those financial obligations might be, and what they need to do to meet those obligations,” Mr. Livingston said.

To his words I would add that Sandwichers must set aside their pride and get past issues of embarrassment concerning money.  As the saying reminds us, pride goes before a fall. Indeed, silence in matters of financial analysis and planning is far from golden. Sandwichers do neither themselves nor their families any favours by delaying the inevitable.

For Sandwichers who have not saved from an early date, there is no time like the present to start. A good idea is to enlist the aid of an expert like a financial advisor or credit counsellor to improve the chances of finding the right financial solutions. At the same time, what helps in all cases is speaking openly and candidly about finances and planning with kids and parents who require support.

In a nutshell, open communication tends to relieve stress, and even free up space for the return of romance in a couple’s life.


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