A video recently released by NTUC Income has gone viral (again) and it struck Heartland Boy on several chords. Heartland Boy is not here to validate or debate about NTUC Income’s video production skills but he must confess that it has inspired him sufficiently enough to pen a blogpost about the topic in focus- the Sandwich Generation. The video encapsulates one of the goals that Heartland Boy has been striving towards- to be the last Sandwich Generation in his family.
What The Sandwich Generation Means
The Sandwich Generation is defined as parents who have to support their own children as well as their ageing parents at the same time. By nature, children are naturally dependents of their parents as they are unlikely to earn an income to fend for themselves. On the other hand, ageing parents may or may not depend on their children as a source of their retirement income. Some of the retirees may have accumulated sufficient funds to draw on them during their golden years. The unfortunate ones may not have enough retirement funds and face a bleak outlook – continue working out of necessity or turn to their children (if they can be depended upon) as a source of retirement funds. Heartland Boy’s parents fall into the latter category and this creates an additional level of emotional stress on him and his siblings.
I Am My Parents’ Retirement Funds
Heartland Boy remembered that before he turned 21, which is a significant milestone in itself, he asked his mum what her proudest achievement in life was. To which she replied, “Raising up each and every one of you.”
Later on in life, Heartland Boy asked his mum how she intends to live out her retirement years. To which she replied, “I would have to depend on you all (3 of us) to give me money every month when you start working.” Heartland Boy knew that his mum meant every single word of what she had just said because he was managing the household finances on his parents’ behalf and had clear visibility to their financial planning (or lack thereof). Their combined CPF balances and cash holdings in banks could not even meet the Full Retirement Sum for a single person. Sadly, his parents’ circumstances are more commonplace than it sounds. According to NTUC Income’s latest survey, 3 in 5 parents hadn’t planned for their retirement and 59% of those of who did have not planned for funds to last them till they are 82- the statistical life expectancy in Singapore.
This explains why many of the youths today believe that they will continue to remain in the Sandwich Generation. Their parents are expected to live longer with the advance of medical science, yet they have not accumulated enough retirement funds. As filial piety is a strong Confucian value ingrained in our society, these children feel financially responsible for their parents’ retirement. Heartland Boy thinks and feels no differently. In fact, because of how dire his parents’ financial circumstances are, he feels extra responsible to resolve the issue and make it right. Therefore, rather than lament about his circumstances, he tries to make the best out of it. Read how he tries to plan their finances and grow his parents’ retirement funds in this article.
Ensuring I Am The Last Sandwich Generation
While Heartland Boy accepts the cards that he has been dealt with, he is the first to admit that the additional level of stress arising from being in a Sandwich Generation is something that his offspring can and ideally should live without. Life for the next generation will only get tougher as the competition will be keener and the future more uncertain. Adding the responsibility of providing for their parents’ retirement into the equation will only add to the emotional stress of trying to cope and survive in an increasingly complex environment. Therefore, Heartland Boy agrees that one of the best gifts to his child would be to prevent them from becoming the next Sandwich Generation. To that end, he and his wife are actively building up their retirement funds through several ways:
- Growing their CPF accounts to ensure it reaches Full Retirement Sum as soon as possible
- Each opening an SRS account and making active contributions
- Actively building up an investment portfolio to provide dividends
- Avoiding a big-budget wedding and a house renovation that they could ill afford (common pitfalls for young adulting couples)
- Living a financially responsible lifestyle
The road may be long and slow, but they have every hope that will get there one day, and that is their promise to Olympia. That would also be Heartland Boy’s advice to his peers stuck in a similar situation, continue to plug away and ensure that the buck stops in your generation.
Determined To Be The Last Sandwich Generation
Unsurprisingly, 91% of those surveyed by NTUC Income believed that they have better opportunities to be the last Sandwich Generation compared to their own parents. Heartland Boy recognises dearly that the daily grind that his parents have put in have enabled him to gain a good education that has put him on the footpath to a solid career. What his parents did not realise is that because of their incessant toil, the next generation such as Olympia will no longer need to belong to the Sandwich Generation. This is something that Heartland Boy hopes his daughter will thank her grandparents for as well.
perhaps the burden of looking after parents only became heavier in this generation where healthcare and living costs have gone up. it was more affordable to take care of parents in the past. expectations were low and it was just another pair of chopsticks on the table.
i agree with you. healthcare costs have indeed gone up too much and this needs to be arrested.