Today?s middle-aged Americans face a set of burdens unknown by their parents. Almost half are supporting both a child and an aging parent at the same time, according to the Pew Research Group. In some instances the children are young, but in many others it is a grown child who is in need of financial support.
If you're one of those facing these difficulties, part of the group now referred to as the ?Sandwich Generation,” you need all the help you can get. By observing some important financial truths and taking advantage of available tax breaks and educational opportunities, you can do much to remain stable during the current difficult economic climate.
Try Not To Dip
Avoid dipping into savings or retirement if at all possible. It may take some serious budgeting, requiring the live-in children to get part-time work to contribute or even selling off unimportant luxuries, but dipping into safety nets is the last thing you should do. Retirement and savings are set aside for when you can no longer work and for emergencies. As inconvenient as caring for two separate generations is, it's not enough of a reason to compromise the integrity of a safety net that probably took you years to build. Don't let your position in the sandwich generation ruin your own retirement later.
If you need help budgeting and managing your finances, Mint.com is an excellent resource. Using this online financial management program can help you see where your money is going, and it will also create budgets centered around your financial goals. There are also plenty of other tools, including YNAB and Moneydance.
Poverty Unemployment Rates
New information on the struggling economy may help explain why you are being put under such a heavy burden. According to the Huffington Post, 4 out of 5 adults in the U.S. will deal with near-poverty, joblessness or welfare reliance at least some point in their lives. These difficulties are attributed in part to a loss in manufacturing jobs in many parts of the country that once relied on them.
If you want to make more money in your career, or change careers completely, there have never been more opportunities. The ability to be upwardly mobile is important, because even as you care for children and parents as part of the sandwich generation, you still need to maintain and strengthen your retirement fund.
Online options from traditional universities such as Duke and Oregon State are available to everyone, but full online educational opportunities from schools like Penn Foster offer affordable ways to study at home while carrying another job. They also allow you to only take as much schooling as you can afford, and avoid taking on more debt.
According to the Wall Street Journal, older students still qualify for tax credits as well. The American Opportunity Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit both give students tax breaks on their schooling costs of up to $2,500 a year. The American Opportunity Credit is intended for students who have not yet completed four years of schooling and make less than $90,000 a year, while anyone is eligible for the Lifetime Learning Credit if they make less than $53,00 a year. You can find more information on available tax credits on the official IRS website.