By: John P. Napolitano, CFP®, CPA, PFS, MST

For those still lucky enough to have your parents living, you know very well what is meant by the term the sandwich generation. In a 2012 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, about 48% of adults ages 40 – 59 have provided financial support to a grown child with about 21% of that same group also having provided financial support to a parent over age 65. Those with support happening to both generations are considered Sandwich Generation members. 

If this is you, or you can see this train rolling down the tracks, here are a few matters that you may consider in your planning. First is to plan for cash flow. You need to plan your cash flow and include the various contingencies that may arise. You may need to plan for your retirement, the education of your children, or the care of your parents in your home or somewhere else. Evaluate these possibilities, and make a decision on how to marshal your resources.

Hold a family meeting with your parents or any siblings that are also concerned. Learn about Mom and Dad’s financial affairs in as much detail as they are willing to share. Getting right to the elephant in the room, you want to know if their financial situation has been stress tested for any extended illnesses that may strike. You should also get a handle for the adequacy of their retirement income and assets to meet their life objectives. Learn about their estate plan and the documents that they may have used for medical directives or incapacity. Don’t be too surprised when you learn that they’ve done nothing or that their documents are very old and not very helpful for their current needs.

Talk to your siblings about their views, and their ability to help if home care or other assistance is planned from the family. This often becomes a source of family disharmony when the caregiver responsibility isn’t shared. For siblings living far away, it may be appropriate to talk about some financial assistance for the sibling who is local and the day to day caregiver.

To the extent that either financial support or health care services are disproportionately provided by one or more child can be a great reason to divide any remaining estate unequally. The unequal distribution can provide for reimbursement of costs and recognition of a job well done by the care providing child. Don’t assume that this is going to happen. It would be wise to see that these provisions, to the extent that your elder parents are willing, are actually incorporated into the parents’ wills and trusts.

For support provided to your adult children, first decide if it is a gift or a loan.  I usually suggest to start the support as a loan just for protection against divorce, bad health or plain old bad financial moves. At least the loan may protect you should you need it and can be forgiven if you really want it to be a gift.


John Napolitano's weekly Making Cents article is published by several Gatehouse Media outlets such as the Patriot Ledger and the Dover Post.

John P. Napolitano CFP®, CPA is CEO of U. S. Wealth Management in Braintree, MA.  Visit JohnPNapolitano on LinkedIn, @JohnPNapolitano on Twitter,  Facebook, and The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific tax issues with a qualified tax advisor.  John Napolitano can be reached at 781-849-9200.