Sandwich Grandparents

We frequently talk about children of aging parents taking charge of the financial well-being of those who raised them. What about the financial challenges of the “Sandwiched Grandparents”? According to recent stats, there are 2.7 million grandparents raising grandchildren at a time in their life when they should be saving for retirement. Take Monica and Jake for example…

grandfatherMonica and Jake are in their early 60s. Monica is a former schoolteacher, and Jake expects to retire at 67 from an engineering job with the State of Ohio. Looking forward to retirement, they downsize to what they call their “everlasting house”—a single story 2-bedroom home on a little lake, just perfect for retirement years. Six carefree months pass before they hear devastating news—their only son, Jess, an Army veteran with a wife and child based in California is killed by a roadside bomb while serving in Afghanistan. His widow Darlene is now the sole caretaker of 5-year Melody, but at the funeral they are once again hit with an emotional bombshell: Jess’s widow Darlene struggles with drug addiction. Monica and Jake take temporary custody, and two years later, full custody.

Variations of this story affect millions. University of Toronto professor Esme Fuller-Thomson, is an expert in the phenomena of grandparents raising grandchildren. She says in an interview, “You should be saving for retirement; instead, you’re spending your savings and it’s very hard to get back to work.” She adds, “People who are older and living on fixed incomes really have a hard time stretching to meet clothing and bigger accommodation issues like having a larger home, and child-care issues.”

Apart from the financial downside of being a “sandwich grandparent” is that kids, especially very young ones, are constantly passing on their exposure to colds and other ailments; and grandma and grandpa get a lot less sleep. But the rewards often outweigh the risks knowing that their grandchildren are well cared for and their own lives are more active and meaningful.

In 1997, the Ohio General Assembly directed the Ohio Department of Aging to organize and chair a special “Grandparents Raising Grandchildren” Task Force. Information is available here. The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services offers a downloadable report Ohio Resource Guide for Relatives Caring for Children.

If you have a family friend or relative that is experiencing the joys and challenges of being a Sandwich Grandparent, we encourage you to forward this blog. If we can help with any money management issues or answer any questions, please call us at (513) 322-1036.