Money in the Middle

Sandwich Generation Talking About Money Up, Down and Across Generations

Archive for February 2009

Retirement Plan Heading South…And I don’t mean Florida.

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Are baby boomers angry about the state of their retirement funds?  Absolutely.  But it’s more than that.  It’s that V8 juice moment that says life is going to be different than you thought.


Smack across the forehead–  “I could have had a retirement!”


So retirement plans are changing – delay a few years, return to work (if you can find it), cutback on life style, eat out less, discover stay-at-home vacations– to reflect the new state of your retirement assets.  It’s probably a silver lining for all those employers who have been wringing their hands about the baby boomer brain drain.  Guess what? You won’t be able to pry them out of their chairs until they refill those dwindling 401(k) coffers.


So if you are a baby boomer, facing changing expectations about retirement, what do you do now?  It depends a lot on the attitude you’ve had about spending and saving.  Are you a saver/planner or a spender/debtor?


If you have planned and saved conscientiously, living within your means, investing wisely, contributing regularly – you probably feel angry.  Rightfully so.  The good news is that if you can keep those patterns, you have a chance to be where you thought you would be – just maybe a few years later. 


If you’re a spender/debtor, it’s time for a reality check.  Because you really were not going to retire when and in the manner you thought.  You bought what you wanted, used your house as a piggy-bank and thought retirement savings would somehow take care of itself.  Now, it’s time to change your ways.


Sp here are three tips: (1)  Start being realistic about retirement —  the sooner you begin to adjust your expectation, the easier it will be to figure out a way to get there. (2) Learn to love simplicity and a more frugal lifestyle (3) talk to the people you know who are good with planning and money and see if some of their “secrets” will help you get on the path to rebuilding retirement expectations.



Written by Laura Rossman

February 22, 2009 at 5:58 pm

Resetting Expectations: baby boomer family dilemma

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These are tough times.  We’re all worried about money and jobs –even if we still have one.  If you are of the baby boomer generation (age 44-62) you are wondering what happened to the good life you thought you had…or the early retirement you were going to have.  Poof!  Expectations reset.


So, how do you now talk about our finances with family members?  Cutbacks here and there can flow up and have an impact on aging parents and down to adult children or those still at home.  Family gatherings are no longer a time to boast about the latest bonus or show off the new electronic “toy” you bought. It’s a time to be honest and seek support.  


Research continually reminds us how much we hate to talk about our personal finances – a recent survey of women showed they would prefer to go to the dentist for a root canal than talk to their husband about money.  And, have you ever talked with your parent about their finances? 


Yet, giving a people you care about a “heads up’ about your personal financial situation is important.  They’ll understand your actions and attitude better; they can provide counsel and support; and, it helps you adjust to your new reality.  So here are three groups you should talk with about if your financial situation is changing (which is most of us).


 Your children – Whether they are young adults just out of the house or still at home, talk with them about why you are cutting back on spending.  For adult children whom you probably slip a few dollars to now and then, or even provide some level of support, let them know things are changing.  It changes their life, too.  


This can be a great “learning moment” with teens.  Habits developed in these years carry into adulthood.  If they don’t know much about money or budgeting, it’s real life lesson time.  Seek their cooperation and set expectations – trips to the mall will now more frequently be for looking rather than purchasing; there will have to be choices made among afterschool activities that come with additional costs; and eating out will be less frequent.  For college-aged children it is often a really difficult discussion because you feel promises made can’t now be kept.  Work together to figure out a plan that keeps them in school (maybe community college for a year or two) or a less-expensive state school option. 


Your parents – Your parents are being rocked by their own financial reality.  You need to understand what this (more in a later post).  And, they need to know what is happening with you, especially if you are providing some financial support to them.  If they are out of town, you need to let them know visits will be less frequent; holidays will be celebrated with cards and small tokens rather than large gifts if that has been your custom; and trips or family gatherings may have to be put off for another time.  You don’t need to go into great financial detail.


Letting them know you are cutting back will help avoid misunderstanding about why you aren’t visiting or sending your usual gift.  I recently saw a wonderful e-mail an aging adult sent to his children about cutbacks he’d be making – shows, gifts, trips – that wouldn’t be as they were in the past.  No dire predictions, no “woe is me” – a bit of levity and hope that these things will return in the future.  But for now, a few changes were being made.  A great gift to his children. 


If you are helping provide financial support, it needs to be a more detailed discussion.  And you need to begin looking at government assistance (if they qualify) to help when you can’t.  Look to their local Council on Aging or Office on Aging for assistance. Don’t wait until it is a crisis. 


Rather than continue to increase the pressure on yourself by pretending everything is the same, take a step today to share your situation with a family member.  Resetting their expectations help you accept your new financial reality.





Written by Laura Rossman

February 10, 2009 at 2:08 pm

Caregiving Strains Marriage and Money

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Get Help with Caregiving Stress

Get Help with Caregiving Stress

Caregiving is taking its toll on marriages, draining  bank accounts and increasing sibling squabbles as one-in-two baby boomers face taking care of an aging parent.  the poor economy and fear of job loss add to caregiving stress.


 According to new research from, eighty percent (80%) of baby boomers caring for an aging parent say that it has put a strain on their marriage.   “The time spent caring for an aging parent can take a serious toll on the caregiver’s relationship with their spouse,” said Andy Cohen, COO of, a website for caregivers (  “Time that is traditionally spent with one another once the kids have left home is becoming more and more time when children start to play the role of caregiver to an aging parent.”


The financial strain is increasing, as caregivers find themselves without jobs, or working more to make sure they keep the job they have.  The emotional strain on the caregiver and family relationships is increasingly evident. There has been an increase of 62% in the numbers of parents age 65 and older living with their adult children, according to the Census Bureau.


“We find more people seeking professional help with managing care of an aging parent.  Sibling disagreements are increasing about not only what the right care is but who is going to shoulder the burden of care, said Dr. Dan Tobin, CEO of Your Support Nurse, (  “We help them identify local care solutions and work together as a family to solve their problems.”


Unfortunately, technologies that can help older persons age at home are often overlooked or undiscovered.  Laurie Orlov, Founder of Aging in Place Technology Watch (, a research firm, cites a Clarity 2007 study in which 51% of baby boomers believe that technology can help their parents, but only 14% have looked for any – perhaps because marketers have yet to clearly target them.


Can baby boomers afford to pay to help parents age in place? “According to research from AARP, boomer caregivers do express willingness to pay less than $50/month for technologies to assist in their parents’ care,” Orlov says, “But interestingly, they typically pay more than $300/month for tech-related services for themselves.


Orlov recommends that instead of waiting until someone falls in their home or is admitted to the hospital for failing to take medication — boomers should act now. PERS (personal emergency response system) devices, medication reminders, and sensor-based home monitoring tech — all can make a huge difference.

A care manager can be a big help if you are in the midst of a caregiver meltdown or the tension between siblings about the ‘right course” is mounting.  As a long-distance caregiver, I found that a professional care manager could step in and help us see past the emotions to the needs.  It also brought an objective voice to sibling disagreements over the right next step. They  knew the local area (my parents were in Arizona where I had never lived and new nothing about local resources).  And, maybe most importantly, they can get you to your options more quickly — reducing stress and strain on you and your family.

If you are doing it yourself, can help you identify options. A Council on Aging in your area may be able to provide guidance and resources.   A professional care manager can help you manage the situation (for a fee which is usually $300-$500 for  a few hours of consultation and recommendations.) is a national service that provides local nurses –especially helpful for long-distance caregivers.  You can also find more about care managers at their professional association

Written by Laura Rossman

February 6, 2009 at 12:16 pm

Free Heart Health Screening — One Way to Save on Healthcare

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These days we’re all looking for ways to squeeze our dollars — even pennies.  So I was very impressed by an announcement from Safeway that they are giving free  screenings to help target potential heart problems.  Heart attacks are a silent killer for many women — especially baby boomer women and their mothers.  My mother had a heart attack last year.  I never saw it coming.  Nor did she.  Always healthy –we’ve called her “super jock” for years , continues to play tennis and golf at an age we would all marvel at (but I will never tell!).  We had the sense to go the the emergency room and with great doctors from Johns Hopkins she’s better than ever. I soon after headed in for tests — fear is a powerful motivator. 

 Safeway Inc.  is offering free blood pressure, BMI (body mass index), and cholesterol level screenings at store pharmacies to promote heart health and prevent the number one killer of women – heart disease.   It’s part of the company’s “Love Your Heart” campaign, a wellness program to draw attention to the importance of knowing the risk factors of heart disease.

 The free screenings are available to women and men and will take place from February 4 through February 24, 2009 in Safeway pharmacies, including Vons, Pavilions, Randalls, Tom Thumb, Dominick’s, Genuardi’s and Carrs pharmacies.  This is one of many store-related campaigns from one of many healthy heart campaigns aimed at educating women about the threat of heart attacks.  Pick the benefits that work for you, but do listen to the message and take a step to make sure your heart is healthy.

The screenings, a $40 value, are sponsored by Safeway, Campbell Soup Company, Kellogg’s, Healthy Choice, Diet Coke, Fresh Express, StarKist, Barilla PLUS, and Health Magazine. Screenings will be conducted by nurses or pharmacists at store pharmacies. Safeway is also offering savings on special heart healthy products throughout the store. Customers can easily locate these products at the “Love Your Heart” displays in all stores. Heart health informational brochures, containing special product offers, will also be found in specially marked displays.

Health experts constantly remind us that preventative health screenings can save us thousands of dollars in health care costs.  Whether it’s taking advantage of Safeway’s offer or making the appointment with your doctor, do it this month. It can save your life…not just your money.

The Heart Truthand Red Dress are trademarks of DHHS.

Written by Laura Rossman

February 5, 2009 at 1:13 pm