Find Out What It Means to Be Part of the ‘Sandwich Generation’
Filial piety – the respect and care for your elders – is and always has been unquestionably something to be admired and respected in Asia. Our parents have raised us to be caring and mature adults, and now that we are in the prime of our lives, it is our turn to take care of them. As is the norm in Asian culture, that usually means that our parents will be staying with us under our roof. Likewise, as parents ourselves, we must raise our children in a similar manner – with an understanding and appreciation of respect.
However, while there is no question that looking after our parents and our children is the right thing to do, it is also more difficult than ever.
Stuck in the Middle
According to a study done by The Economist1, the term used to describe people in this situation – where they are “caught between competing demands of caring both for their children and parents” – is The Sandwich Generation.
If you find yourself in this bracket, you’re not alone. This phenomenon is mostly prevalent in Asia, with an estimated 1.5 million people in Hong Kong2 belonging to this group. The crunch for you mostly comes from two factors: The elderly can rarely count on pensions or public assistance, leaving the burden of looking after your parents financially to fall onto you – while at the same time, the school fees for your kids are considerable, even if your family can be classified as middle or upper income.
Because of this double burden, you might find yourself working harder than ever before, while also saving less and taking fewer risks with your investments.
These side effects can take a serious toll on your finances and security for your retirement. But it’s not just you that will be affected. According to the study, 42% of The Sandwich Generation expects the standard of living to drop once they have retired. What makes this worse though is that only 16% are getting the right kind of professional financial help to provide a better future for themselves and their kids.
What Can You Do
So, what’s your best bet right now? First of all, brace yourself for some changes. “People will stay in employment longer and women will join the labour market in greater numbers,” says the report. “Savings and investment rates will shift as retirees draw down pensions.”
But don’t just brace yourself. Brace your children too. “If you fast forward today’s Sandwich Generation into elderhood,” says Mr Richard Jackson, director of the Global Aging Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), “even if their kids exercise the same degree of filial piety toward their Sandwich Generation parents as today’s Sandwich Generation does towards its parents, the burden will fall on a much smaller number of children.”
All that said, savings and investments still remain your best option for a more comfortable retirement ahead of you. While there is currently a hesitation amongst the majority of The Sandwich Generation to seek professional financial advice, it certainly seems like the best way to go to create a sound and comprehensive financial plan.
The future may be uncertain, but with the right mix of hard work and sound advice, it might be a lot brighter than you expected.