Money in the Middle

Sandwich Generation Talking About Money Up, Down and Across Generations

Archive for February 2010

Saving bit by bit but in our own way

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While the economists have declared the recession over, most people I know are still trying to figure out how to keep their spending in check, stretching the money they have, and trying to build up an emergency fund if not retirement savings.  

Below is new research from Harris Interactive that gives a great birds-eye view of some of the steps we’re taking to continue to change our spending ways.  The similarities and differences across the generations are interesting:

 *  Moving to generic brands to save money seems to be equally popular whether you are 20 or 70.   

*  Seniors and boomers are more likely to cancel magazine subscriptions. *  Seniors aren’t willing to give up their land-line telephones, but the young adults are increasingly ready to be cell-phone only.   

*  Young adults are finding the wisdom of the brown bag lunch as a way to keep more money in their wallets. *  None of the generations were willing to cut back on cell-phone service demonstrating how critical it’s become to our life.   

A couple observations about the list: 1.  Some spending priorities are very representative of generational behaviors and values, so not all cost cutting recommendations are created equal.   If you’re trying to help someone with budgeting, older or younger,  let them work from their own priorities and preferences.    

2.  Even small amounts add up.  And just as importantly you’re helping get your spending and saving back in balance – living within your means.  That’s particularly important as we come off years of consumption on credit and find our way back to moderation and cash.  Among the things I gave up was the morning latte coffee – almost $20 per week — does add up over time though at the time I never much thought about the habitual stop at the coffee shop.  Still treat myself occasionally but it’s off the must have to the nice to have. 

“Have you done or considered doing any of the following over the past six months in order to save money?” 
Percent saying “Have done”
Base: All adults   
  Total  Generation 
Echo Gen. X Baby Matures
Boomers (34-45)  Boomers  
(18-33)    (46-64)  (65+
Purchasing more generic brands  63 60 66 63 61
Brown bagging lunch instead of purchasing it  45 51 56 46 20
Going to the hairdresser/barber/stylist less often  39 39 43 38 35
Switched to refillable water bottle instead of purchasing bottle of water  34 40 37 31 28
Cancelled one or more magazine subscriptions  33 24 31 36 45
Cut down on dry cleaning  22 18 24 21 27
Cancelled or cut back cable television service  22 24 26 22 14
Stopped purchasing coffee in the morning  21 25 27 19 14
Cancelled a newspaper subscription  19 16 20 20 20
Changed or cancelled cell phone service  17 19 20 17 11
Cancelled landline phone service and only using cell phone  15 20 16 15 6
Begun carpooling or using mass transit  14 26 16 7 4
Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding   

Results of the Harris Poll of 2,576 adults surveyed online between January 18 and 25, 2010 by Harris Interactive.


Written by Laura Rossman

February 17, 2010 at 9:10 pm

Too High Cost of Caregiving

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If your solution to long-term care is, “my kids will take care of me,” there’s new research that shows just how high a price your children may pay in compromising their own health.

 Employees in the U.S. who are caring for an older relative are more likely to report health problems like depression, diabetes, hypertension or heart disease.

 That costs employers an estimated $13.4 billion per year, according to a MetLife Study of Working Caregivers and Employer Health Care Costs.  And some of those health care costs are borne directly by the employee.

 Here are some more findings:

 * Younger caregivers (18-39 years old) demonstrated significantly higher rates of cholesterol, hypertension, COPD, depression, kidney disease, and heart disease compared to non-caregivers of the same age.

 * Caregivers tend to skip their own preventive health screenings such as mammograms.

 * Caregivers are more likely to miss days of work and often switch from full-time to part-time to care for their elder.

 * Employees providing eldercare were more likely to report fair or poor health in general.

 * Female employees reported higher stress levels at home than non-caregivers.

 * Eldercare may be closely associated with high-risk behaviors like smoking and alcohol.

If you know anyone who is or has been a caregiver, you know this first-hand. 

While eldercare is often thought of as an issue you hit in your 50s, this survey shows caregiving responsibilities across all age groups, with some of the heaviest health toll taken by those ages 18-39.

The report, directed toward employers, calls for better coordination of wellness and eldercare programs, more work time flexibility and stress reduction seminars, among other benefits.  And while reducing employer health care costs is a lofty goal, we can’t help but wonder if in the current economic environment the call for more resources will fall on deaf ears.

But, this report can be a wake-up call to anyone thinking that having their children care for them as they age is a long-term care solution with no consequences.

It’s good reason to figure out now how to finance your own long-term care, whether though your own assets or long-term care insurance. I know the current economy makes that difficult for many of us. 

But after all the years of keeping them healthy, getting them to eat their vegetables, and get exercise — the loss of their good health for elder caregiving is too high a price  to pay.

Written by Laura Rossman

February 3, 2010 at 7:53 pm