Tips for the ‘sandwich generation’

Zest! Spoke to money and wellness coach and author Marc Bineham about how to prepare for retirement when you’re juggling competing demands.

Q&A with Marc Bineham  - 3 min 30 sec read

Marc Bineham

A little about Marc

The author of The Money Sandwich, Marc Bineham is a money and wellness coach, speaker and podcaster. After a career of over 30 years in the financial advice profession, Marc has helped hundreds of people and families get on top of their money worries, to manage their money better and live a more fulfilled and less stressful life. He served as the National President of the Association of Financial Advisers (AFA) from 2016 to 2020.

It can be hard to prepare for retirement when you have others to think about—be that elderly parents, adult children, or other family or friends.  

Zest! spoke to author of The Money Sandwich, money and wellness coach Marc Bineham about how to handle competing demands when you’re ‘sandwiched’ between helping older and younger generations. 

What are the common challenges facing people who are approaching retirement today?  

In my group of friends, when we all hit 50, we all said, “If only someone had written a manual for us at this point in our lives.”  

We have elderly parents and while it’s great that they’re living longer, we now have to look at their financial and aged care needs. On the other side, we’ve got teenagers and adult kids who are moving back home or can’t afford to live out on their own.  

We’re the generation in the middle of the ‘sandwich.’  

There are a lot of new issues to get on top of for this generation. Previous generations didn’t live as long, so by your 40s and 50s most likely your parents had passed away. Housing was more affordable, so adult kids usually established themselves sooner. As for our own situation, we thought we would be empty nesters, but maybe we won’t be.  

All this often means we don’t have much time to focus on our retirement.  

What does retirement mean for the ‘sandwich generation’?  

There can be negative sentiment around the word ‘retirement.’  

When they see that classic view of an elderly grey haired couple walking along a beach or on a boat going down the Rhone in Germany, lots of people think, “I don’t want to do that. I’m enjoying work. I’m active.” People in their 50s and 60s feel young—and they want to be able to choose what they do.  

People prefer to think about financial freedom. If you have financial freedom, you’re working because you want to rather than because you’re forced to—but that can be difficult to achieve. 

What can people do to move towards financial freedom?  

They do need to start planning for retirement—whatever that might look like. Get your money working for you. That might mean saving more into super or adjusting investment options to better reflect your goals.  

You might still be working but once you slow down or stop, you could be living another 30 or 40 years. People often think once they reach their 50s or 60s, they need to become more conservative with superannuation and other investments. That was fine when you were only going to live 10 years in retirement, but if you’re going to live another 30 years, you need to think of your retirement funds long term.  

We are living longer, and we need to make sure our money is working hard. The greatest risk is that you will outlive your money. 

How can people help their loved ones without compromising on their own needs? 

With the elderly people in your life, the easiest way is often to get a third person involved—like an expert (say a lawyer or an adviser) or a family friend. Many elderly people don’t want to talk to their adult kids about their own situations, because they don’t want to feel as if they’re giving away control. But there are conversations that need to be had around aged care, powers of attorney and estate planning to avoid hurried last-minute decisions.  

On the other side, adult and teenage children face big financial challenges today and many parents worry about how to help them—whether that’s to get into their first home, to understand how to save or how to stay out of debt.  

It’s good to encourage your kids to get involved in their finances and that includes super. They will have 30 or 40 years of work. Choosing an appropriate super investment strategy and beginning a savings plan can mean hundreds of thousands or even a million dollars of difference over time.  

And encourage them to consider death and disability insurance, which they can easily access through super. Every good financial plan has that safety net of insurance.  

What else should people do to prepare for winding down their careers?  

There are challenges in retirement that aren’t just financial. A lot of what you did in life may have been defined by work and work might have been what kept you active. As you approach retirement, start working on what’s going to be your next big challenge, something to keep your brain active.  

Health, relationships, and community are also important. And if you have a partner, talk to them about what retirement looks like—one of you may want to work and the other may want to travel the world. You do need to have that discussion.  

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not purport to reflect the views and opinions of Russell Investments.

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