Two million Canadians are part of what we call the Sandwich Generation; they are taking care of kids and aging parents. The majority are women, between the ages of 35-44.
Kim Parlee brings together those affected with mental health and financial experts in this special live audience edition of MoneyTalk Life.
Hello, and welcome to the show. I'm Kim Parlee. Great to have everyone with us here tonight. Tonight we're talking about getting squeezed, the sandwich generation, that is.
We're all living longer. People are waiting longer to have children. Adult children living at home longer. And that is creating a pressure cooker for two million Canadians who are sandwiched in between.
So we're going to dive into this, see if we can help everyone feel just a little less squished with the help of a clinical psychologist and a financial expert. But first, I'd like to introduce you to Jayne Huhtanen. She's going to tell you her story.
Oh, hi, dear. How are you doing?
My name is Jayne. And, yes, I am part of what is called the sandwich generation. I am 55 years old. I am married. I have two boys and an aging father. And that's how you get the sandwich.
How's the traffic? All that construction, it's absolutely horrible, oh.
My dad, Henry, is 88 years old. And he is still amazingly independent for a man of his age. He lives on his own. And he still does about 90% of his tasks himself.
He is slowing down. And the body doesn't do what it always used to do. So he walks with a cane to make sure he's stable and steady on his feet. And he has been getting more and more hard of hearing.
One of the things I really do worry about is especially when he's up at the cottage and he's alone up there, I worry if he falls and no one would know. And so how would we take care of him?
These are the leftovers from clearing out my dad's condo when he moved to the retirement residence. So I need to sort through it all, figure out what I want to keep and what I want to get rid of.
I am a full time working mom. I have my own business, actually. So it's more than full time. At the end of the workday, the evenings can be incredibly busy sometimes. I have to get dinner on the table.
I might help my son with his homework. There's always laundry to do, of course. And I really have to make sure I'm keeping in touch also with our son who is away at university.
And he had a lab yesterday.
My husband is amazingly helpful around the house and does a lot of the work. But the reality is, a lot of the mental load does fall on the mom in terms of the planning and the thinking and the figuring out of everything that needs to be done.
And I've got to make sure that I have my veggies and--
You do eat well.
One of the things that really is a concern for me and a worry is that I'm not a good enough daughter, a good enough wife, a good enough mom.
How was your day?
And the choices and the consequences of making those choices that you have to make. So, for example, if I go to a work event and skip one of my son's hockey games, what if it's the best game he ever had and I miss it?
Can you give me a hand?
-- but it's way up there.
Oh, the suitcase? Yeah. Yep. No problem.
At this point in my life, things are stressful and overwhelming at times. There is a lot of-- there's a lot to juggle. And just trying to keep on top of it all can be extremely exhausting. I'm tired all the time. And I need to work at sort of keeping things together so that I can be there for all of my family.
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the set Jayne Huhtanen. Jayne, thanks so much.
Thank you, Kim.
Thank you, first off, just being generous enough to allow us to-- into your home and let us know what's happening right now. How do you feel when you watch that?
I get a little choked up.
I'll admit, I'm fighting back, you know, a few tears. Because it reminds me very blatantly of the challenges every day. And from speaking with some of the other women here tonight, they're facing the same challenges.
So I'm not alone in this. But sometimes I certainly feel alone in dealing with all of the things that life throws your way when you have it coming from both ends.
Yeah. It's interesting because when you said in that piece we were watching, you talked about not being-- I'll admit. When I saw it the first time, I was crying.
And you talk about not being good enough. You know, you're feeling so stretched too thin in all these different, in all these different directions. What do you need help with? Or what do you think you need help with?
Sometimes it's just someone to listen so that I can just tell them what's going on and review kind of what happened in a situation, not that I want them to solve the problem for me--
--but just to listen. And also, you know, just knowing what resources might be out there that could be helpful to me, whether there's online resources or people I could speak with. That's definitely, definitely would be helpful. And just time--
And that's the hard part, right?
Manufacturing time to do these things. Do you feel as though-- I mean, you know, you strike me as someone who's very together and has a lot organized. I mean, you run your own business on top of all this as well. Do you feel, though, the pressures are getting more intense right now or less intense?
The worry is getting more. So that may be totally self-imposed, in a sense. The pressure is getting more. I know my dad is-- although he's still, you know, pretty good, in pretty good shape. He's going to go-- continue to go downhill.
The complexity of day to day living gets harder and harder for him. And I know that I'm going to need to be there to help him. And so I know it's going to get worse before it gets easier.
And I worry, you know, with my kids. They're at that age. They're going to have to-- they're going to school. They're going to have to find jobs. And there aren't jobs out there. So I get stressed and worried about all of that. And am I ever going to be able to retire?
Yeah. And do you-- do you feel as though, right now-- I mean, how's business for you in terms of-- and we didn't even talk about your business and what you're doing there?
But how is business right now?
Business is great. So that is going great. But it-- anyone who is self-employed knows that it is a constant, steady slog. If you ever pull back from your business, things will just-- the business dies out, right?
So you can't take a break from being-- when you're self-employed, you can't take a break.
All right. Well, stay with us. When we come back we're going to bring in some experts to see if we can help with Jayne and everyone, quite frankly, who's dealing with this, and get some perspective on her situation. Dr. Karen Hood who's a clinical psychologist and Rowena Chan will join us right after this break. Stay with us.
Welcome back. Tonight we're talking about the sandwich generation. That's the group of Canadians who find themselves caring for their children and their aging parents. It's a lot of stress.
We just spoke with Jayne. She's a mom of two with an 88-year-old father. Also joining us now here is Dr. Karen Hood. She's a clinical psychologist and clinical director at the Yorkville Medical as well as director of Behavior Science at Newtopia Lifestyle Management and Rowena Chan. She is head of financial planning and the Women's Investor Program at TD Wealth.
Thank you to both of you for coming on stage. And sort of manufacturing time, it is your job to help us figure out, you know, what it is that Jayne can work on and, quite frankly, everyone is watching can work on. Before we get there though, just what stood out for you from her, you know, her story?
In terms of Jayne's story, yes--
--it's just really that there's a number of pressures and challenges that she's up against and how challenging it is to fit all of that in when you're caring for an aging parent, you're still caring for children that are emotionally and financially dependent on you in some way, and you've got a full time busy business, that it often leaves people feeling over-stressed, overwhelmed, spread way too thin, and with very little time for self-care or time for self.
Yep. And it also falls to women.
And it tends to fall, the majority of the work does tend to fall to women, sort of a two to one ratio. Yeah, expect that women do the primary job of care-taking.
I would have thought it's 10 to 1, but I digress.
Rowena, what stood out for you? Well, she has a lot on her plate. And that I can relate to her story because I have a mom who is 86 years old having some challenges with her hearing, walking with a cane now. And I have two children going to university. So it's really-- I can feel her pain. And I want to learn today from Dr. Hood what I can do-- what I can do.
So we brought in the expert who is going to consult with the expert. All right. The spotlight is on you, then. Let me ask you, so, you know, given what you've heard from Jayne, I mean, stress was the big one.
And also, I think I was saying earlier, that I had heard from a previous conversation that we had had that when she lists out the things she has to take care of, it is-- you know, not necessarily in this specific order-- but it's father, children, husband-- he may have an issue where he is in the order, but anyway-- and you at the bottom. And that seems to be a big problem.
And that seems-- that's par for the course, I think. It's the new normal for many people in the sandwich generation.
So what does she do about that?
No, it becomes a question, you're right, of how do you find time? We can't manufacture time. We can't stretch time. But how can you find moments of time where you can do things? So I know we had talked-- I talked to Jayne before about the end of the day ritual is important to you, that having that time to just breathe, relax--
yes, yes, a few minutes of--
--let the day go when the kids are all doing their own thing or people are in bed, that Jayne likes to take the time and either read a book, watch a little TV, either have a glass of wine maybe--
--or some tea.
--or a bottle.
Depending on the day.
Just having the ability to sort of just decompress. And we talked about other ways as well as decompressing is finding those little stolen moments of time, knowing that even if you do 10 minutes here, 10 minutes there that overtime we know that that's cumulative.
There's a cumulative effect of taking a few minutes to go for a walk, taking a few minutes to take a breather, knowing that you work at home, even during the day taking time to take a walk around the block and enjoy it. Or we also talked about adding some time on to the time that you have with your father, like to go for a walk. It's in a lovely neighborhood--
--where the home he is actually.
So really enjoying that. And when you're taking that time, to really be mindful, be present. Don't be worrying and thinking about the next thing. But really try to focus on the trees, on what's lovely. Take a few breaths and really enjoy.
The other thing and that we're going to talk about, I think, in a minute is asking for help.
One way of getting time back is to ask for some help.
I'm going to ask Rowena for help in a second. And she's going to because she's on the show. But I mean--
But I mean, but for people who-- you know, how do you ask for help? Because it's hard when it's your husband or your kids or-- you know, how do you actually--
It can be hard.
How do you actually get them to help as opposed to I can ask and they don't do anything. But how do you actually get them to do something?
To get them-- I mean, I think initially you have to realize, be very specific and be direct about what you need help with. So meaning, you have to do a bit of a needs assessment. So there may be things you're doing with your father and around the house that you like to do. Maybe you like to grocery shop.
Maybe you like to do certain things. What are the things that you're fine with? And what are the things that you're feeling sort of stretched too thin or things-- where are the gaps? And then you look at who is available to you? So in your home, it happens to be your partner, your life partner, and your two sons-- or one son is away, I guess, but one son is at home.
One son is at school, yeah, right.
And so sort of think, how can I leverage some of their strengths and open a conversation about that? So it's sort of almost having-- you might call it having a family meeting rather than a we have to talk. I would-- because people never like that tone.
Everybody sort of gets defensive and pulls back. But just maybe have a family meeting when people are around and say, you know, let's have a chat. We know the situation that's been going on with Grandpa, that he's, you know, he's in his residence. He's getting settled. And you've seen the things that I'm doing to help out.
But there are times I have to be honest that I feel stretched. And I feel like there's a lot going on. And I could really use the family, sort of other people to pitch in. I know you guys are helping with XYZ. I know your husband is helping with some of the cooking and things.
So give them credit. Give people full credit where credit is due. But then say there's a few other things that I feel maybe you could help out.
Let me ask you about if one of the issues, or from a financial standpoint, what are the kinds of things that Jayne needs to think about in terms of, you know, moving ahead.
Because I think, I said, she strikes me as a very together person right now. I mean, quite successful, does what she does. But you know, you talk about your father having greater needs medically. What are the kinds of things you need to be considering?
So Jayne just talked about it in her earlier segment about she is worried about retirement. In fact, the boomer generation, this is the prime time to save for your retirement. And so to need to care for the father and also looking after the two-- son in university, it can derail your retirement.
That's, you know-- sorry, I don't mean to interrupt. But that's really easily done with women too, right?
Because they're like, they'll put someone else first, oh--
And suddenly you don't have any money.
That's exactly what she just said, right?
And you want to. You naturally wanted to help. And so it's important to make sure that you have-- you stay focused in your retirement plan. Work with a financial planner together with the family. And understand what are the aligned goals that you all want to achieve.
Very similar to what Karen said, it's not-- who can chip in? What type of budget? Who can contribute? And so that you are all working towards something, it's transparent. And so the burden is not all on you. It's very important now with stress that you stick to your retirement saving.
And I think what's interesting too is also stating what your goals are so your kids hear it--
--and everyone hears it as well, right?
Now, one thing I know with Jayne as well, I mean, you are self-employed.
That's a whole other layer of stuff you have to manage in this as well.
So because you're self-employed, you're more susceptible to change.
So let's say you want to take some time out to care for your father. And you mentioned earlier in your business, if you are off, many of your clients may not come back way, right, or your business is experiencing a downturn. So it will all have implications to your income.
And so it's very critical to set up an emergency fund, something like three to six months expense coverage. So then that if things come your way, your budget for the next three to six months are covered.
The other thing though, because you're self-employed, you probably should think about business succession planning. So it's almost like an exit strategy. When you want to retire or do you want to semi-retire, what are some of the tax implications?
And how does it impact your cash flow? So it's never too early to have an exit strategy. Because then you can maximize and have your timing as to when you retire and how you retire.
And hopefully, yeah, when you want to. Because, you know, you don't want to be-- I know for self-employed people will often keep working much longer than they want.
Yeah, what-- I mean, what are the one thing you think you really need right now?
Other than just more time?
Yeah, a plan, I just-- I guess more of a plan of how to juggle everything that's going on. And so the everything includes both the financial questions and some of the stress and emotional questions.
And just how can I make sure that I'm there for my dad, for my kids, for my husband?
You did it again.
For me-- I know. I know.
You did it again.
I know. I know. So how do I-- how do I create that plan and that structure so that I can meet all the needs that I need to meet?
Yeah, yeah, and being like, I guess, the airplane, pulling down your own oxygen mask first, right?
It often has the big-- well, I just want to pause. If we can get a big round of applause for Jayne for coming on and sharing her story.
Thank you so much. And Karen, thank you very much as well. We're going to bid adieu for a moment. When we come back, we're going to be talking with Rowena about some tangible tips that can help everyone in the sandwich generation through the financial crunch. You're watching Money Talk. We'll be right back.
Welcome back. Tonight we are talking about the two million Canadians who are taking care of children and their aging parents. That and working full time can lead to burn out and financial burnout and sometimes money issues.
We're back with Rowena Chan. She's head of financial planning in the Women's Investor Program at TD Wealth. But first before we get into like the four things I think you think is important for women to pay attention to, this does fall disproportionately to women.
We heard that from Karen. We see it in Jayne. But this is something that, I think, women are the most at-risk in terms of their finances.
Right. You're correct. In fact, women, when we did quite a number of studies, and women invest differently. Woman like to be heard. And when we do financial plan with women, we need to know their life stories. Otherwise, we won't be able to plan it together with them and to call it-- to turn the dreams and goals into reality.
Now, men, it's quite interesting. They would talk about their goals in figures. For example, they'd like to retire with a million dollars.
While woman will refer to it as lifestyles or milestones. Such as like Jayne, she can say something like I would like to retire with enough income to bring my kids to university. Or I would like to take two trips a year.
And so that's how usually woman quantify their goals.
Women tends to invest slowly, slowly and steadily. And from a investment risk perspective, it's relatively more risk averse than men. One thing we also learn from the survey is that mothers tend to rate their investment knowledge a bit lower than their male counterpart.
But that's-- and that's funny too. Like, I know women always tend to understate their own abilities--
--as compared often to men.
So not surprising.
But in fact, they actually make a lot of financial decisions behind the scenes.
Of course they do, yeah.
Women in Canada, in fact, control around $1.3 trillion of assets. But only 3 in 10 women actually have a financial plan. So like if you put all those facts together, we really need to have better dialogues and better understanding to help women create a financial plan to help them achieve their goals.
Very interesting facts. In terms of the four things you've got here that women need to keep in mind, specifically women in the sandwich generation--
--first one is, and we talked about this, is putting your own finances first, right?
So how do you do that?
So I would go back to the retirement planning.
How do you achieve your retirement goals? Because it's important to stay invested and save for your retirement. Because then you will have more confidence about your long term outlook. More importantly, you would alleviate some of the potential burden you give to your adult children when you need care. Because you don't want to repeat, right, what you're going through when you are in the sandwich generation.
That's so interesting because, yeah, whatever you're going through, you don't want your kids to do the same thing.
Second one you have-- and, again, this is hard-- having an open discussion around money and responsibilities. I mean, we all say, oh, have one. But people are running in the other direction.
Yeah, because if you don't have a transparent conversation as to what are the expectation, what are the goals, and how can we achieve it together, then it's just going to be difficult when you do a plan or when you get into a dispute. So to also set some expectation as to who can chip in, what are the responsibilities for all of us to get there is as important when you do a financial plan.
The third one, and this can be a bit more complex, is to have a thorough estate plan. So here's the thing. Let's get rid of the jargon for a second. What does estate plan mean?
Yeah. Estate plan means, do have a will? Do you have life insurance? Do you have power of attorney? These are the basic components.
Now, let's talk a little bit about the what if situation. So what if I suddenly go into the hospital and I don't have a power of attorney. So who is going to pay my bill? It's really that simple. And who is going to settle some of my finances?
If I don't have a will and if I suddenly pass away, so it can bring to potential dispute of the-- of my family, not to mention probate. So there are tax planning involved when you do have estate planning.
Last one is consider helping your parents downsize. And by downsize you don't mean just the home. No, I actually would call it right size your life. So for my parents, let's say, do they really need a two story house based on their health condition?
Should they move into a condominium so that they have better support, concierge support, even cars, their lifestyle, additional cares that they may need, government aids that they need. And so I think right sizing the life based on different life stages is important.
So it goes back to the dialogue. Really have transparent conversation with your aging parents. And be realistic about how much-- how independent they can be throughout a years. And also remember it's a one time thing. Because you have to keep going back to your plan and to keep going back to real-life situation. Because things can go--
Because life changes and the plan needs to change too.
Yeah, like aging parents' health can go downhill faster than you we expect. Or they can live longer than we expect. So from a financial planning perspective or from a health planning perspective, lifestyle planning perspective, we have to all take that into consideration so that when surprises comes your way, you can handle it better.
Rowena, thank you so much.
Rowena Chan, she's the head of financial planning in Women's Investor Program at TD Wealth. I want to take a quick opportunity to thank everyone for joining us on the show, Jayne for sharing her story, Dr. Hood for telling-- giving us some advice. And also. I want to thank our audience who is here in studio, big round of applause for them. It's great to have everybody here.
And thank you for joining us. If you have any comments or questions on anything you've seen, go to moneytalkgo.com/life and you can see this again. Get the more tips. And so if you want any comments, questions, need some help, email us at [email protected] Thanks so much for watching. And we'll see you again soon.