Let me begin by telling you a true story.
Since I began exposing myself to the financial industry, I was often asked – “Bro, I’m in my 50s nearing retirement. I have not prepared for it financially. I have nothing. What should I do to NOT suffer financially?”
Let me be honest with you…
I don’t have the answer.
You see, the industry is big on not just preparing, but also preparing EARLY. And clearly, the people who ask this question are the ones who failed to do just that.
One time, I sent this “lesson” in my email list (click here to subscribe for free) without giving any solution to this problem. Because that was the real intention – to let them know I don’t have the answers.
Because let’s face it.
If there is something in the future to salvage the “financially-unprepared-for-retirement-oldie” situation, then let’s just go YOLO (You Only Live Once. The term used to justify rash, stupid and impulse decisions – according to Wikipedia) today and stop preparing.
I mean, why even bother, right?
My friend, the truth is – There’s no such thing. *ouch*
Unsurprisingly, it hit a nerve. Not from the oldies, but from the millennials (this time, I was surprised).
Apparently, I had millennials in my list who are part of the “Sandwich” generation. (I’m a millennial too, by the way).
If you’re supporting your parents and your kids at the same time, you belong to the sandwich generation. Just in case you didn’t catch it – imagine a cheese sandwich. Your parents and your kids are the bread, and you’re the cheese.
Hence the term “sandwich”.
Unfortunately, it’s a never ending cycle in the Filipino culture .
A family raise their kids, do what they can so the kids can graduate from the best university they can afford, then they find a (hopefully) high-paying job so the now-adult children can support BOTH their parents and new family.
Unfortunately (again), the latter does not always happen.
But since the breadwinner never attended to himself – was not able to save and invest for his own retirement, he now becomes the “new bread” to his children. (Quite ironic to call them “breadwinners” if you think about it).
And the cycle continues.
Here’s the good news – the cycle can stop with you. And an even better news is – you can prosper too.
Yes, you read that right.
PROSPER. (Hold that thought for a moment)
I may not have the answers to help your old folks, but I can definitely help YOU.
Trust me, I’ve seen it unfold right in front of my eyes. A poor Filipina probinsyana goes to the city. Takes on a job. Supports her family. Then started her own family.
For many, this is where the disaster starts.
But for some, they were not only able to make ends meet, but also turn their life upside down.
They were able to send their kids to great schools.
They were able to make sure they will not depend on their children financially.
And they did this while supporting their old and sickly folks.
The latter can be your story.
“Wait bro. I’m only supporting my parents. I don’t have my own family yet. This article ain’t for me.”
It’s only a matter of time before your “sandwich” comes to completion. After all, the top bun (your parents) has already been served for you.
You Can Prosper – No Excuses!
(Now back to prosperity).
I know not because I’ve read this in a book nor learned from a training or course. If you’re a frequent tambay of Common Cents, you know that’s not how I do things here.
I know because my mother belongs to the sandwich generation. And as the eldest child, I’ve seen how she was able to pull it off.
And upto the last breath of my lolo and lola, mom was always there to support them. And get this – without compromising our (her children’s) future.
Hindi lang niya kami nairaos, she prospered too. Now, she has investments and a real estate business that can support her even beyond her retirement years.
Partida pa – she did not need to go abroad to be an OFW (there’s nothing wrong with it, by the way. Let’s get that right).
If you know my mother, I could probably hear you scream right now, “But Carlo, your mom was blessed with a great job. That’s why she can support you and her parents at the same time.”
Mom started from NOTHING.
If you and mom are both starting today, you probably have more advantages than her. She was raised by poor farmers who can’t send their children to school. Mom had to force herself to become a scholar so she can go to school for free.
Don’t get me started with her baon in school. Take note – they’re poor!
She moved to the Metro to study college (again – scholar). To survive, kailangan nilang (my mom and her sisters) makitira at makisama sa mga makag anak.
And after graduating, she’s just like you – hungry to secure a job (it gives a fair pay, but not what you’d call high).
You probably started way ahead. So don’t make that excuse.
Your parents are not your obligation. But…
Let’s first take off from the fact that it’s not the duty of the children to support their parents (by default).
Because if it is, then we should all do away with all these “preparing early” and everything else about financial planning.
Let’s just focus on having more children and make sure they end up with a cool high-paying job, so that they can support us once we retire.
I’m sure you’re very much aware that it’s not entirely the case.
BUT (and this is a big ‘but’, so listen to this one)…
In my humble opinion…
...not lifting a finger for those in need (whether it’s our parents or not) is dead wrong.
If we have the capacity to help, we should never deprive others of it. (Within boundaries, of course).
How do we do it?
Before I move on, take note that I will focus more on how you can help your parents because that’s probably where you’re having problems with.
Truth is, I’ve never encountered anyone who’s having problems supporting their kids because they have to support their parents. Usually, it’s the other way around.
You should do this out of love, not because of obligation.
As I explained earlier, it’s not your duty to support your parents (by default). It’s YOUR CHOICE to help. It must be, and it should be. You know how it is if we’re only forced to do something, right? This case is no different.
Now that we’re taking off from the same page, here are the things that you can do to prosper, despite being part of the sandwich generation…
Tip #1 – “Put your oxygen mask first”
(I got this metaphor from Randell Tiongson).
Yes, like in the plane.
The cabin crew demonstrates how you must put on the oxygen mask in case there’s a sudden change in pressure. In the end, they mentioned a very important reminder…
…to put on YOUR mask first BEFORE the child.
Same thing with your family’s financial well-being. You have to take care of yourself first before others.
Remember, they are counting on you.
You cannot give what you do not have, ika nga nila.
This is also the part where I say – do NOT compromise your, and your children’s future. They’re priority.
Invest for your retirement.
Protect yourself. Get insurance for you and your kids.
Start a business.
And for crying out loud – pursue your dreams! Don’t give up on it. Be the best that you can be. I’m sure your parents would want that for you too.
Tip #2 – Make sure it’s a “Team Game”.
One of my most favorite verse in the Bible came from Galatians. It talks about responsibility.
“We must carry each other’s boulder. But each one must carry their own load.”
Earlier, I mentioned that if we have the capacity to give, we must not deprive others who needs it. The Bible mentioned it too. Hence, the boulder.
But what’s amazing here was how God gave a qualifier – that each one has to carry their own load. May taya din dapat yung iba.
So my dear breadwinner…
It’s not wrong to ask for others to take responsibility. After all, responsibilidad naman nila yun. Plus, you’re only human. You cannot do this alone. Just like in the NBA – a player can’t win a championship alone. Not even the king Lebron James.
Take note though – this responsibility may not be monetary.
The same is true with my mom and grandparents. My lolo ang lola we not able to provide financially, but they compensated by taking other roles (which I can’t remember anymore but that’s what mom always say. LOL!). Think delegating. Other stuff the you won’t need to worry about.
Tip #3 – Communicate.
Pretty trivial isn’t it?
But this is where most families fall short. I know how money can be a sensitive topic that’s why most families don’t talk about it.
I get it.
But it must be done.
Just like anything in life, everything will fumble without proper communication.
It happens in businesses, ministries, and organizations. Our families are no exemption.
I remember growing up. My mom, titos, titas, lolo and lola would gather around to talk about only one thing – money.
They talk about the boulder and the load (Tip #2).
They talk about who gets what.
Of course, hindi ko alam kung ano pinaguusapan nila kasi bawal ako makikinig. There’s an awkward aura in them everytime they talk about it. What more kung ang panganay sa lahat ng magpipinsan eh nakikinig pa. LOL!
To say that they had constant communication is an understatement. Napasobra pa nga yata sila 😉 But we’ll take it rather than not communicate at all.
By communcating, you also gain clarity. To unsugar-coat it, “magkalabasan na.” or “magkalinawan na.” in Filipino.
When heard, it’s a clear sign that something is serious.
Think of it like a theatre performance – before the actual act, you practise for days, weeks and months. This is no different.
Communicating is like theatre practise – you don’t do it on the actual day of the act. You don’t talk about an issue when it’s already there. You prepare for it in advanced.
Tip #4 – Build your fence.
I learned this tip from an LOJ (Light of Jesus) retreat.
Take note – from a retreat by no other than THE no less than Brother Bo Sanchez of LOJ!
Building a house fence has one purpose – to guard your house from “evil” forces. It creates boundaries to protect your house. If there’s anyone who want to go in, hanggang dyan ka na lang! Unless you allow them to come in.
In your case, you must build a financial fence. A boundary. “Hanggang dyan ka na lang.” This way, you protect yourself from financial abuse (yung ultimo pang-handa ng birthday, sa ‘yo pa hihingin tapos imbitado buong barangay).
How far the financial fence will be built is entirely up to you. You’re the one who knows how much you can tolerate.
I remember when my lolo was in the hospital. Mom told me that if tatang will be transferred to the ICU, hindi na niya kaya.
That’s her financial fence.
From the retreat, I remember Brother Bo’s story very vividly.
There’s a woman who’s married to a gambling addict. And this woman approached Brother Bo. Natalo kasi sa sugal kaya nabaon sa utang.
“Brother Bo, please help me. If I won’t be able to pay for my husband’s debt, he’ll go to jail. He promised he won’t gamble again.”
So Brother Bo gave help.
But the husband did it again and got buried in debt. So the woman asked help from Brother Bo again.
This time, Brother Bo refused. And he did not only refuse. He even mentioned (take note – in a retreat!)…
“If that’s the case, I think your husband must do to jail so that he could learn his lesson.”
That’s his fence.
Here’s a personal example from me…
Did you know that my wife and I never declare our income with each other?
It doesn’t mean though that we keep secrets from each other. That can’t be further from the truth. We are actually very transparent.
In the household, our language is, “Babe, I’d take care of these bills. Can you cover those expenses for us?”
I shared this because there are some breadwinners who are required to disclose their income to their parents.
Honestly, hindi ko gagawin yun.
But there are really no strict rules whether you should or not. It just a question of how near or far will you build your financial fence.
Tip #5 – Enjoy and Have Fun
I’m not talking about have fun being a sandwiched breadwinner.
I meant having fun like a normal person.
Travel, shop for new clothes and gadgets, go out with friends, treat yourself with a nice meal or massage.
Mag-YOLO karin paminsan minsan. Of course, within reason and boundaries.
More than anyone in this world, I think you will agree with me that you deserve that. After everything that you’ve done, right?
“Ang dami-daming gastos dito, naglalakwatsa ka pa. Puro bago pa damit at cellphone mo!”
I’ve heard that one too before. Akala ko sa pelikula lang nangyayari. Totoo pala. But anyway…
This can be managed, if not prevented, if you did agreat job at Tip #3, and if you’ve put to heart Tip#1.
Hindi lang dapat ibang tao ang mageenjoy sa pinaghirapan mo. Dapat ikaw din.
You are meant to be the breadwinner in the sandwich generation.
To close, I’d like you to know this…
“There is no other person more qualified to take the sandwiched breadwinner role except you!”
If you ever asked yourself, “Why me?”
Why not Ate or Kuya?
Why not bunso?
Why not the most favorite son or daughter?
(From experience, breadwinners are not usually not the most favorite child).
I can only tell you one thing…
You were CHOSEN by the divine universe because YOU CAN.
You are the most capable.
You are the epitome of a good steward of God’s blessings.
Just imagine… What if this blessing was given to others? To people whom the only thing they know about money is spend it. They don’t know how to save, much less share it.
That’s why this blessing was given to you. You may think you’re not capable now. But you have the MOST potential.
And most of all, you care.
That’s why you were chosen.