Growing numbers caught in sandwich generation trap

Article date: 16 February 2009

A growing number of UK adults are caught in a dilemma of wanting to support their parents financially, but not having the funds to do so, a report reveals today.

New research conducted by Norwich Union, soon to be Aviva, has found that two thirds of adults (68%) would like to help fund their parents in retirement, but are unable to because of their own financial situation. Fewer than one in 10 (7.9%) in this age group are actually giving their mums and dads any form of financial assistance.

However, nearly three quarters of adults questioned (72%) admit they are worried that their parents may struggle financially in retirement. Most common fears are that parents may not be able to afford to stay in their existing home (60%), that they may have to ‘do without' luxuries they are used to (27%) and more significantly that they may not be able to afford any required medical care (9%).

And regardless of nine in 10 adults (88%) saying their minds would be put at ease if they knew their parents had plans for retirement, the money ‘taboo' prevents people asking, with seven in 10 (70%) saying they feel uncomfortable talking to their parents about their finances.

The report also shows clear evidence of younger people prepared to alter their own lives to assist their parents. More than a quarter (26%) say they would cut back on their own spending to free up cash, while one in six (17%) would be willing to give mum and dad a share of their savings. On a more practical level, four in 10 (39%) would be prepared to adapt their work or lifestyle to care for their parents, and a further quarter (25%) would invite their parents to live with them.

However there is clearly a knock-on effect, as seven in 10 (71%) say they are worried how they will manage their own finances if they have to support their parents through retirement. This fear has been heightened by the current economic climate, with six in 10 (60%) saying they have had to delay their own retirement plans, due to the credit crunch. Almost half of these say that worry they will have to work much longer than they had planned.

This feeling is exacerbated for the so-called sandwich generation - with one in five (21%) saying they are worried about having to support both children and ageing parents at the same time. A similar number are worried that they won't be able to afford to send their children to university.

Notably almost half of those questioned (47%) say planning for their retirement is their biggest financial concern, above paying off their mortgage (27%). Seven in 10 (70%) say that they do not think that their pensions and savings will be sufficient to support them through retirement.

Dominic Fraser-Smith, product manager, post-retirement for Norwich Union, said: "As people are living longer and having children later in life, more and more individuals are finding themselves caught in the sandwich generation trap. This means an increasing number of people are facing the dual emotional and financial challenges of caring for two sets of dependents.

"In the current climate there is a very real possibility that people are using their savings or taking a holiday on their own pension contributions to deal with the pressures of supporting young children and elderly relatives. Those in this situation need to look at their finances very carefully to balance their own needs - both now and in the future - with the immediate needs of their families.

"As family demographics begin to shift further in this direction, it is vital that younger people start planning their finances now, to avoid potentially storing up even bigger issues for themselves and their relatives in the future. I would advise people to seek the help of a financial adviser who could help them to review their family assets including property, to look at preventing their children becoming the next sandwich generation."


Press office contacts:
Sarah Poulter:             01904 452828 / out of hours 07800 691569
Holly Smart:                01904 452766 / out of hours 07800 699218

Notes to editors

Information from an online survey carried out by Tickbox using a sample base of 1245 respondents aged between 25 and 50 and 652 aged over 50.  Survey carried out 06-12 February 2009.

About Norwich Union

  • Norwich Union is one of the UK's biggest life insurers. It is a leading provider of life, pensions and investment products and one of the largest Financial Adviser (FA) providers. FAs provide over 70% of the company's long-term savings business in the UK.
  • Norwich Union has strategic alliances with building societies and other leading UK brand names including CIS and The Royal Bank of Scotland Group. Norwich Union's news releases and a selection of images are available from Aviva's internet press centre at
  • In the summer of 2009 Norwich Union will change its name to Aviva. Aviva is the world's fifth largest insurance group and operates in 27 countries. Aviva is to become the customer brand worldwide, thus enabling the company to compete even more effectively on a global scale for the benefit of customers, staff, business partners and shareholders.

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