Sandwich generation under pressure

Posted in: Research Last updated: 01 Apr 2011

Providing financial support and care for their elderly parents and children is tipping the balance for some in the sandwich generation, costing more than £184 every month, it was revealed yesterday.

The findings emerged in a study of 1065 people aged 45-65 who are involved in caring for or supporting their older parents, children and grandchildren.

Many in their forties, fifties and sixties – dubbed the ‘sandwich generation’ – are having to live with the financial consequences of supporting parents who live longer, alongside children failing to achieve complete financial independence.

As well as managing their own financial obligations, they have to find an average £2,210 every year in financial aid to family generations.  In 22 per cent of cases, this has meant having to take out a loan to cope, or for 17 per cent, a second job.

When it comes to elderly parents, the money goes towards food, nursing care, entertainment, healthcare and medicines, and the costs of travelling to visit them.  But for teens and young adults struggling to cope with debts, mortgage or rent and the costs of buying or running their own car, mum and dad are called on for help.

For almost half those surveyed, financial responsibilities extend to grandchildren.

Karl Elliott at Engage Mutual, which conducted the survey, said:

“£184 a month is a significant amount of money to find in addition to life’s usual expenses, especially when taking into account the rising costs of living.

“In an ideal world, the late forties, fifties and sixties should be a period where major financial burdens associated with raising children are lifted.  It could be an opportunity to squirrel more money away with a view to later life and retirement.

“But our survey suggests that people are typically finding that family financial commitments in these key years are ongoing.”

More than 55 per cent of those who help their children have provided financial assistance in getting a deposit together for a home. In 26 per cent of cases, they have contributed between £1,001 and £6,000.

Helping to fund grandchildren typically amounts to £900.74 a year.

Buying gifts and treats, alongside feeding and entertaining as part of baby sitting duties, are the top two costs.  These are closely followed by savings and investments made on behalf of a grandchild and in some cases, helping them to run or buy a car.

More than a third of those surveyed stated that financial commitments towards parents, children and grandchildren had increased compared with ten years ago,

Unsurprisingly, four in 10 people say they frequently feel stressed with so many people relying on them for help.  And 44 per cent say providing support for their family is a bit of a financial burden – invariably leaving little money at the end of a month.

But despite having the weight of this responsibility, 79 per cent say they are happy their parents and children rely on them for help.

And 87 per cent claim they would miss the contact they have with their family if they didn’t help provide for them and interact with them on a regular basis.

Karl Elliott continues,

“Times are hard for many, so being able to rely on the community of the family is vitally important.

“With the economic outlook unlikely to improve levels of financial independence for the young, and life expectancy on the rise, it’s a situation with no short term solutions.”

Breakdown of average costs

Associated with parents: per year

food – £93.20

nursing care – £333.53

medicines/healthcare – £30.45

entertainment – £48.21

utility bills – £38.49

travel expenses – £118.17

miscellaneous – £63.14

total –  £725.19

Associated with children: per year

run/buy a car – £296.90

help pay off debts – £75.51

rent/mortgage – £122.69

pocket money – £122.69

total – £584.89

Associated with grandchildren per year

pocket money – £153.36

investments / savings- £88.60

presents – £235.73

babysitting – £175.17

travel expenses – £99.48

run/buy car – £148.40

total – £900.74