'Sandwich Generation' of Working Parents Forks Out for Young and Old

The sandwich generation are paying the price - not just emotionally, physically and professionally - but also financially. If you’re sandwiched and strapped for cash, check out our top tips for support.

A growing number of people have found themselves caring for, and sandwiched between, two generations over the past few years. Government figures show that around 3% of the population, equivalent to more than 1.3 million people, meet the definition of the sandwich generation - those who support both older relatives and dependent children.

Squeezed Finances

Unsurprisingly one of the greatest impacts of caring for two generations of relatives at the same time is the cost. A study (carried out via OnePoll) of 1,000 parents with children who have left home, found 75% continued to provide financial support for their children after they have flown the nest. It showed that parents were still paying out almost £3,000 a year to their grown-up children to help pay for food, cover household bills, fund holidays or even aid first home purchases.

According to the Office of National Statistics, one in three sandwich carers say they are "just about getting by" financially, while one in ten are "finding it difficult" or "very difficult" to cope. Meanwhile, only 17% say they are "living comfortably", compared with 32% of the general population. 

Lifestyle Expectations

Research by The Co-operative shows that two-thirds (65%) of the sandwich generation feel their finances are under strain through supporting their kids and parents, and more than half (58%) of working families feel they don’t have the lifestyle they imagined they would have had at this life stage.
Robin Taylor, head of banking at The Co-operative, said: "The cost pressures of living in the current economic climate are placing real financial pressures on the shoulders of today's middle generation. Compared with previous generations, the combination of higher costs of housing, providing care for the elderly and everyday living has resulted in a squeezed generation who are having to re-adjust their views of the lifestyle they thought they would have been enjoying at their age."


4 Top Tips:

  1. 1. Claiming the right benefits for the people you care for
    If you’re struggling with the financial pressures of being caught in the sandwich generation, make sure you’re claiming all the relevant benefits – both for you, and those that are depending on you.

    Elderly relatives who have personal and nursing care needs are likely to qualify for attendance allowance. Or if they’re under 65, they should qualify for a personal independence payment.

    If you have children under 16, make sure you’re claiming child benefit. And if you’re paying for childcare, you can help reduce the cost through the government’s tax free childcare scheme.

  2. 2. Claiming the right benefits for you
    If you’re spending more than 35 hours a week caring for someone, you may also qualify for carer’s allowance. This could pay you up to £67.60 a week. You need to meet certain criteria in terms of how much other income you have, check your eligibility at www.gov.uk/carers-allowance 
    to find out more.

  3. 3. Communication and family help
    If your children are still living at home once they’re earning an income, it’s reasonable to ask them to contribute to household bills. These can be difficult conversations to have but it can be a great help – and if they aren’t able to contribute financially, make sure they’re doing their fair share of cooking, cleaning and laundry for the whole household to help ease the burden at home.

    Likewise, talk to your parents about your own financial situation along with theirs. They won’t want to be a financial drain on their children and it’s likely they will want to pay towards any costs, if not cover them entirely, if they can afford to do so.

    It might also be important that you discuss the possibility of setting up a 
    power of attorneyfor your parents. This will allow you act on their behalf if they become physically or mentally unable to do so themselves. In order to save yourself from unnecessary additional worry, stress and potential cost, it is essential that the power of attorney is registered at a time when your parents have the mental capacity to make important decisions, in case they become ill at any point in the future and are unable to do so.
  4. 4. Seek professional financial advice
    Short term cost for long term gain, a financial planner/advisor will work with you to review your own finances. If your caring responsibilities have increased and you’re considering reducing your working hours, they will be able to help assess whether you can afford to without derailing your own financial plans. They can also work with the whole family and steer a productive discussion to establish a way forward that is agreeable with everyone.


Extra Resources

Benefits and financial support if you're caring for someone in the UK

Support and services for caring for older people in Ireland

Services and supports for parents in Ireland