I Am My Parents' Retirement Plan. My Kids Will Not Be Mine.
To all appearances, I am a successful, affluent career woman. At 35, I have a good position as vice president at a bank and I dine at nice restaurants and indulge in overseas holidays a few times a year.
But I still feel financially stretched.
I currently support my parents financially, by paying for the mortgage on the condo they live in.
Ironically, despite paying a mortgage, I am currently living in my husband’s family home with our five-month-old son as we save up for our own home.
I am an example of a member of the sandwich generation, financially supporting aged parents while at the same time trying to raise a family of my own. I feel the burden I carry on my shoulders keenly and I'm determined not to let the cycle repeat itself, by ensuring that my son will not have to support me financially when he grows up.
I don’t blame my parents
Although being in the sandwich generation now is tough – I have never once blamed my parents. So much has changed, we have so many opportunities now that they never had.
A few decades ago, retirement was not something the average person thought about.
Cultural expectations were different back then, with parents assuming that their children would share the financial burden of taking care of them in their old age. Most families lived hand-to-mouth, focusing on raising their children so they could be successful in future and then contribute back to the family. My own parents did their best to bring me up, and strived to give me the opportunities that led me to where I am today.
But then again, back then, families tended to have more children and the cost of living was lower, so the cost of supporting elderly parents could be divided amongst many siblings. The Internet as we know it did not exist, and there was little awareness amongst the population of the need to do financial planning or invest.
The rapid development of Singapore post-WWII also means that the cost of living rose exponentially over that period of time. Singapore’s life expectancy is now one of the world’s highest at 84.8 years according to a 2017 measurement. This has resulted in the present-day cost of living far outstripping whatever nest eggs the elderly could possibly have amassed during their working lives.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Singaporeans today have better access to education, information and financial planning products and tools which previous generations did not. That means that it is in our power to plan for retirement and ensure our children do not become part of the sandwich generation.
My child does not have to become part of the sandwich generation
Many of my peers are also starting their own families and realise they cannot assume that their kids will be able to support them. Even if their kids are able to do so, many do not wish to put such a financial strain on them.
A friend of mine, Jane, a 35-year-old mother of one, found her financial burdens piling up when she gave birth to her first daughter. She was paying almost $600 a month in childcare fees, in addition to giving her parents a $1,000 monthly allowance. She has since decided to stop at one child due to the financial strain.
“I cannot imagine my own child having to do the same,” she laments. “Giving me $1,000 every month – that’s the equivalent to a HDB mortgage payment.”
For me, experiencing early on the burden of paying for my parents’ mortgage opened my eyes to the need to free my own son from having to support me financially later on.
While I don’t believe in making my son give me an allowance in future, some of my friends do expect a money from their kids once they start working. However, even then, it seems more of a token, rather than an allowance to live on.
Cheryl, an ex-classmate of mine who is now mum to a young son, says, “I think kids should contribute to their parents when they are older out of respect. However, we should not be completely reliant on the money as it puts a huge financial burden on our kids. They will have their own families to raise and expenses are high.”
Another friend of mine, 36-year-old Bernard, is now a doting father to a young daughter and also thinks it is a bad idea to depend on one’s children for financial security.
“If she can offer me a little support, that would be good, but it’s not an expectation on my part,” he says, “Leaving your financial future in the hands of others is ill-advised.”
Parents like myself now have a different view of who should support us when we retire. Many of us strive to plan well for our own retirement so we will be in a better position to not only have peace of mind in their later years, but can also put their own our own children on the path to financial freedom. There is so much information, from financial bloggers and interactive online quizzes to books that we are much better equipped to plan for retirement than our parents were. With the wide array of resources and opportunities for financial planning available, it becomes my responsibility to ensure my child does not become a part of the sandwich generation.
Taking charge of your own retirement
With the wide amount of resources, low barriers to entry in investments and multiple tools to guide my financial planning, I’m empowered to stop the cycle before it reaches my son, by taking care of my own retirement so he doesn’t have to.
If like me, you’re looking to spare your kids future financial stress, consider looking into retirement and savings plans to grow your nest egg well. Retirement plans are designed to help your money grow so you can comfortably reach your retirement goals.
With proper planning on our part, our kids will have greater freedom to pursue their dreams and raise their own families. Join me in taking steps to end the sandwich generation today.
This article is meant purely for informational purposes and should not be relied upon as financial advice. The precise terms, conditions and exclusions of any Income products mentioned are specified in their respective policy contracts. For customised advice to suit your specific needs, consult an Income insurance advisor.
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