Caught in the middle: financial challenges facing the ‘sandwich generation’

Senior Adviser Richard Rochford takes a closer look at the financial hurdles facing those stuck between an ageing population and children who are struggling to get on the property ladder.

Retirement represents freedom. From travelling the world to living comfortably and being able to treat the grandchildren, whatever retirement means to you, it is unquestionably a time of life that we should be able to fully enjoy. Yet, while some of today’s retirees are able to do this, future generations might not be so lucky. For a growing number of people, retirement is likely to be marked by the impact of simultaneously caring for an elderly parent and their own children.

Homeward bound

According to ONS statistics, 1.3m people fall into the ‘sandwich generation’, which increasingly applies to those in their 40s, 50s and early 60s.1 This situation has arisen from two major factors that mean finances are pulled in different directions. Firstly, more young adults are returning home to live with their parents. Millennials, in practice, are finding it hard to get on the housing ladder, and research from Skipton Building Society found that about 2.7 million parents had grown-up offspring living at home at the end of 2018, with only 40% contributing financially.2

Not only that – elderly parents are increasingly moving in with their children, or require financial support in order to move into assisted living. Research by VitalityLife has revealed that two in five Brits either expect they will, or already do, support their elderly parents financially in later life.3

Pulled in all directions

The ONS figures found more than 40% of carers were finding life financially difficult or ‘just about getting by’ compared with just a quarter of the general population.4 But the issue is also far more long term.

Several factors are currently putting a lot of pressure on our pension pots, but those finding themselves supporting dependent children and their own ageing parents are particularly feeling the strain. With finances pulled in different directions, it may come at the expense of your original retirement plans, plus the amount you will be able to eventually pass on could be significantly impacted.

According to research by St. James’s Place, those with £50,000 or more in household assets who are not yet retired expect to pass on £74,000 as an inheritance – a third of their savings. This is down from the £125,000 those already retired expect to pass on.5 A quarter of future retirees expect to be financially supporting family members, up from 7% currently. Everyday living costs, school or university fees and childcare topped reasons why people expect to be supporting loved ones in retirement. Moreover, one in five people say they either feel ‘pressurised’ or ‘worried’ by having to provide financial support to others.6


Claire Trott, Head of Pensions Strategy at St. James’s Place, says:

“Passing wealth on to our loved ones is one of the final acts of kindness we are able to make, so it is concerning that the amount many believe they will be able to pass on is eroding.

“Building sufficient funds for your future whilst supporting other generations can seem a daunting task and it’s unsurprising that one in five people say they either feel ‘pressurised’ or ‘worried’ by having to provide financial support to others. We see consistently the value of advice in navigating this complexity and our research found that 8 in 10 people who receive ongoing face-to-face advice believe they have sufficient funds to fulfil their retirement plans. This compares with only 35% who don’t receive advice. It’s clear advice has an important role to play in ensuring a comfortable and confident financial future.”7

Time to act

Saving for retirement has never been so important, for the sandwich generation in particular who face the added pressure of supporting children and ageing parents on top of their own career, mortgage and retirement plans. Putting in place the right plans at an early stage will allow greater opportunity to build wealth over time and leave behind as much as possible. Proactive planning will also help reduce your financial stress if you are already support children and parents, or if you think you may be faced with this balancing act in the future.


For more information

If you have a question about retirement planning or would like more information about our services, please contact Wellesley Wealth Advisory on 01444 848508 or via email at




1, 4 ONS, ‘More than one in four sandwich carers report symptoms of mental ill-health’, January 2019
2 Research by Skipton Building Society, cited here.
Research by VitalityLife, cited here.
5, 6 Opinium Research carried out an online survey of 4,000 UK adults aged 18+ from 18 to 24 April 2019.
7 SJP Insights

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Author: Richard Rochford
Author: Richard RochfordSenior Adviser