Aging 'Sandwich Generation' caught in economic vice
Published Wednesday, November 30, 2011 9:38AM PST
For a growing number of baby boomers, the idea of an early retirement is nothing but a pipe dream.
One-in-six Canadian workers are now over the age of 55 and are working longer hours and not planning on retiring anytime soon.
Fifty-nine-year-old April Lewis, a self-professed "Zoomer," was laid off at two years ago after a 30-year career with Vancouver Coastal Health.
Like many people in her generation, Lewis is finding herself starting over when she should be thinking about retirement.
"I was devastated, absolutely devastated. Gobsmacked," she says of being laid off.
But the mother bounced back, landing a part-time job with CARP, A New Vision of Aging for Canada -- an organization that celebrates aging.
"I don't want people to say 60 is the new 40. Sixty is the new 60 baby – this is it," she said.
Lewis is the face of a growing segment of the Canadian labour force – people over the age of 55 still on the job trying to recover from the market meltdown of 2008.
They're trapped in the so-called Sandwich Generation, caring for elderly parents while trying to offer financial assistance to their adult children. For these Canadians, Freedom 55 is nothing but a fantasy.
"I don't think there's ever going to be that freedom -- we're going to need money till the day we take our last breath," Lewis said.
Tom Davidoff of UBC's Sauder School of Business is a little bit more optimistic about the future. He said Boomers have options these days when it comes to retirement plans, including getting a life annuity.
"[So] no matter how long you live, you're insured against outliving your resources," he said.
Davidoff also suggests home equity loans or reverse mortgages. The idea for both is to draw equity out of your biggest asset while you're still alive instead of leaving all that wealth to your adult children.
UBC researcher Paul Kershaw said many Vancouverites who purchased real estate in the 1970s and 80s made a wise investment into their retirement future.
"Even if you were paying high interest rates at the time, it turned out to be a great fortune for you because doing nothing nevertheless resulted in your housing value going up by almost 100 per cent," he said.
Would-be retirees might also consider purchasing long term care insurance. It can be pricey, but allows you to choose your future care setting, daily benefit amount and length of benefits period. It costs about $120 a month.
Lewis said boomers may be facing the squeeze but there's strength in numbers.
"The upside of it is, there are 14.5 million Canadians over the age of 45 and we're not going anywhere," she said.
Credit Canada said the one-third of Canadians who fall into the Sandwich Generation are taking fewer vacations, eating out less, working more hours and going into debt to support family members.
A recent survey during Credit Education Week found that two-thirds of Canada's Sandwich Generation are going into more debt in order to support their parents and children. As a result of the extra financial burden, more than half (55 per cent) said they expect to retire later than they had hoped.
Additionally, the majority – 82 per cent – said they aren't prepared or don't know if they will be prepared to support their elderly parents if the need were to arise.
Four-in-10 Canadians (39 per cent) in the Sandwich Generation said they were concerned they might not be able to pay for their children's education because they need to financially support their parents.
There are several online retirement calculators that can help you crunch the numbers to find out how long you have to work to save enough to retire.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Lynda Steele...