Much has been said about the Sandwich Generation, those people who are raising children and meeting the increased needs of their aging parents. Mark Solheim, in his From the Editor column of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance (02/2019), aptly referenced them as The Panini Generation. Thinking about that sandwich under all of that heat and pressure, and you get the analogy.

My children are married young adults, and our family has gone through a lot of recent changes. The separation of finances as they graduate with degrees, their establishment in careers, house purchases, and our first grandchild! At the same time, my beloved mother is 87-years-old and needs additional support for transportation, health care, and related aging concerns. I’m grateful she is doing so well, but at the same time, I advocate for her best quality of life, not accepting that “this is just the way it is at her age.” She encouraged and supported me as I pursued my personal and professional goals, and I am honored to stand beside her throughout her challenges. But sometimes the long list of priorities (career, family, faith, friends, and personal health) creates significant pressure, and I definitely feel the heat. The Panini Generation resonated with me!

As I talk with others, I hear their Panini stories. Many sandwiched between generational family responsibilities, challenging careers, marriages stressed by family commitments and money concerns. Perhaps it is someone newly divorced sorting through emotional, financial, and family messes. Maybe it is the person who wakes up one day and realizes “I’ve got to figure my financial future out.” The adage, “If it is to be, it’s up to me” comes to mind. What can be done to support these people? How can we help them set healthy personal boundaries while supporting loved ones? What financial practices can they implement now to work toward comfortable and sustainable tomorrows?

There are no easy answers in solving the complexities here, but the first step is choosing to begin. To get started, I suggest creating support networks to explore issues, decide action steps with timelines, and provide hands on assistance as possible. Perhaps it’s time to talk through the pressures and challenges with a compassionate, listening professional. Food for thought…

— Suzanne Burrell, CFP®