Monday, 4 June 2012

Club Sandwich Generation

Convocation at UBC on May 24, 2012

   I didn’t post last month because of family issues which all seemed to come up at the same time. Strangely, the number of hits on my blog reached an all time high which makes me wonder about the inverse relationship between the amount of blogging that I do and the degree of interest in the blog. I try to write posts that have “legs” and stand the test of time rather than immediate reaction to transient events in the news.  Some of the largest hit rates came on my rather banal and short postings while my analytic posts which I consider my best work and on which I laboured for a significant amount of time don’t seem to attract viewers to the same extent. Anyway, at the beginning of last month my 93 year old mother had a stroke and was admitted to hospital where she is residing until they find a long term care facility for her and my oldest daughter graduated at the end of the month with a Master’s degree in Archeology from the University of British Columbia so I spent eight days in Vancouver with her and my two other daughters exploring the area and being present at her convocation on the UBC campus. My bed ridden mother seems to have lost her short term memory and needs 24/7 care while none of my four adult children has had a job that pays enough on which to live so I’m officially part of the sandwich generation or more specifically the “club sandwich” generation coined by Carol Abaya.

  Carol Abaya is a former journalist who writes a syndicated column for newspapers entitled “The Sandwich Generation.” She got involved in this area when her two aging parents became infirm and needed extensive personal care. The “club sandwich” generation are older baby boomers, boomers being those born between 1946 and 1965, who have infirm parents and adult dependent children. With the ongoing effects of the recession on the employment of younger people and the medical advances which have kept seniors alive for longer periods to the extent that the fastest growing demographic in North America is octogenarians, my generation - the baby boomers – never prepared for the possibility of supporting both our parents and our children at this stage in our lives which was suppose to be freedom fifty five and playing golf in warmer climes. At this point in our parent`s generation, the grandparents stayed at a condo near a golf course in Florida while the parents lived in the large suburban home in which they raised their children and the children had full time jobs, a car, and an apartment in the more trendy part of downtown.
My eldest daughter (by 11 minutes)

  I think that part of the cause is longer education for my generation or in the case of my Ex going back to post secondary school for a second degree. Because of this we had children later in life and so they were still in the process of getting established not to mention that they also had more education so the generational timing is out of sync with the traditional life stages and my parent’s generation is at a stage in life where they would be expected to require more care but we were still focussed on our children’s situation. Most of us were running so hard with the day to day issues taking precedence over long term considerations and especially when you had four children like me that we didn’t have time to reflect on future issues until they were upon us. In this situation the period of saving for retirement doesn`t exist although I was lucky enough to have a defined benefit pension plan which most people at present don`t have at their places of employment.
My three daughters on the UBC campus

  Fortunately in Canada, we have a single payer universal healthcare system so the ongoing health costs are borne by the state but it doesn`t pay for long term care if the patient has an income above a fairly low level so it’s a constant drain on family resources and especially if your adult children live at home because the salary levels at most of the jobs available to them regardless of their educational qualifications don`t allow them to live independently. They also have a high degree on entitlement due to the standard of living that they have been use to their whole lives such as the live-in board certified nanny from Scotland when they were young or the best schools and summer camps. We tried to give them a quality of life superior to our youth but one of the consequences is a level of entitlement and a disregard of the effects of debt. They all max out their credit cards and pay the minimum installment even though I explain that they are paying an extra twenty percent for the privilege of immediate gratification. My parents lived through the depression and World War two so they always saved for a rainy day and wouldn’t buy items unless they could pay cash although I found their delayed gratification a bit much at times. My generation saved less but tried to provide a balance and I think that the only area in which I spent to excess was on my children. My children`s generation has accept debt as normal and expected so they don`t ever plan to have savings or even a buffer of cash in the bank for the unexpected event. In the long run, the current family budget is unsustainable but I don`t see any solution unless the current economic climate changes and people are paid more for their efforts. The 2008 recession and the ongoing reduction in real wages with deficit financing by households and individuals has really changed the whole game. If government austerity comes into force next year a lot of families will go down the tube since the financial instruments that most people use are set up like a house of cards with cascading penalties and consequences if even one area doesn’t mesh or you miss a payment. In the States, household financial collapse will become more frequent as the government redistributive programs such as food stamps and Medicare go on the block and this will happen regardless of who wins the election. Certainly the general electorate in America isn’t aware of the coming economic tsunami since the leading proxy for anticipated household wellbeing, the average cost of a wedding, is still twenty six thousand dollars which is the same as the median annual individual income last year. If folks are willing to spend a year`s salary on one day`s festivities then they aren`t facing reality.
Post convocation party at the Nuba restaurant

  The chart below is from an article published in Statcan in 2002. Since this paper was presented, the situation has become much worse and especially with the current employment situation for young adults since the economic downturn which is reflected more in the underemployment with its concomitant lower wages and reduced hours rather than the unemployment rate which is still high for this age group.

  I hope that you don’t take this as a rant on the unfairness of life but I’m not alone as you can see from the infograph below.

by Browse more Economy infographics.

1 comment:

  1. AND, people claim we are selfish spendthrifts.

    My adopted daughter wants to take mortgage out on her mother's house to pay for her grandmother's funeral. All of these people are desperately poor and flat broke. Yet the family will accept nothing less than open casket, fancy funeral with expensive coffin and embalming, and church service not just graveside burial service, and on, and on, and they are pressuring her, the one who knows how to move paperwork, to be sure to get them the funeral they want.

    And I am aghast, and have said so, but.