Research: Understanding the ‘new’ Sandwich Generation.

New York Life | November 24, 2020

man and son

The Sandwich Generation, named for the population of Americans caring for both their school-aged children and an aging parent/relative, has been uniquely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This is largely due to an enhanced demand on the typical type of care the generation provides as a result of the coronavirus’ impact on schooling, healthcare, and changes to everyday work and life. According to New York Life’s recent survey and whitepaper, about three-in-ten U.S. adults (29 percent) have a child under age 18 at home. And, according to a 2018 analysis of the American Time Use Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics  12 percent of these parents also providing unpaid care for an adult relative as well. That same survey found many of these caregivers provide more than two and a half hours of unpaid care a day, on average.

According to Caregiving and COVID-19: How the pandemic is expanding the sandwich generation, when it comes to those caring for both an aging relative and children, it’s largely women and Millennials who are shouldering the burden. Previous generations of this segment also skewed female, but this data shows that the present-day Sandwich Generation skews more female (64 percent) and younger (38 percent Millennial, ages 25-39) than before, which was previously 53 percent women, and 25 percent Millennial, according to AARP1. Within this group, their financial situations vary, with nearly half (46 percent) having $50,000 or more invested (e.g. stock market and mutual funds, IRAs, 401(k) accounts), and 1-in-4 (23 percent) without any financial investments at all.

How COVID-19 has Impacted the Sandwich Generation

The Coronavirus is stretching both time and money thin for the Sandwich Generation, sometimes at the expense of their financial, physical and emotional well-being.

The Sandwich Generation has spent thousands of dollars in total care for their dependents over time —and the Coronavirus pandemic is intensifying this budget crunch. On average, 7-in-10 (69 percent ) say they’re paying for this care out of their own daily budgets, with 27 percent working more hours to obtain the extra funds, 27 percent drawing from their emergency savings, 20 percent sharing costs with a sibling, and 18 percent ultimately delaying paying bills.

On average, the cost of caring for an aging relative is around $1,000/month.

And, using your best guess, about how much of your own money per month would you say you currently spend providing any type of care for the following individuals? Consider money towards preparing meals, housing arrangements, hygiene, medical, and other financial needs.

Average Amount Spent per Month

Aging relative(s), such as a parent

$    973.29

Spouse or partner with a chronic condition

$    498.02

Child(ren) with a chronic condition

$ 1,632.91

Child(ren) between the age of 18 and 24

$    501.61

Child(ren) between the age of 25 and 35

$    364.25

Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, our data found that more than half of those in the Sandwich Generation report spending more each month caring for others, as nearly one quarter of people report spending extra each month on top of the average $1,000. As a result, about 4-in-10 are spending less each month towards their savings, and about one-third are putting less towards their retirement, debt, or caring for their personal well-being. Over time, these can make a big difference for a financial portfolio and create additional concerns for financial health.

Sandwich Generation graph 1

“As COVID-19 exacerbates the stress on the Sandwich Generation and the economic outlook remains uncertain, preparing for the unexpected becomes critical to achieving long-term financial security,” said Dylan Huang, Head of Retail Annuities, Investment Solutions and Wealth Planning, New York Life. “While our data suggests a troubling trend of Sandwich Generation families sacrificing long-term savings for shorter term needs, the outlook is not all dark skies. This report shows that those working with financial professionals are able to improve their financial well-being and feel more confident about their financial solutions, their family’s future, and their own retirement.”

What’s next

As the evolving Sandwich Generation navigates its family responsibilities and day to day routine, it’s important to keep the financial basics in mind and prioritize time to set their family up for success and less stress in the future. Thinking about life insurance, their emergency fund, and ensuring their investment portfolio is diversified and within a comfortable risk tolerance are all areas that can provide security over time and enable the Sandwich Generation to focus on their loved ones instead of worrying about their finances.

1 2018 Millennials: The Emerging Generation of Family Caregivers


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Media contact

Sara Sefcovic
New York Life Insurance Company
(212) 576-4499