retirement

10 ways to survive the sandwich years

Wedged between paying your children's college expenses and providing financial support to your parents -- at the same time? Welcome to the "sandwich generation." Most of the advice out there focuses on the challenges of protecting inheritances while managing your parents' money. But an AARP study shows that only 19 percent of boomers will receive an inheritance.

If your parents are middle-class, you're in a tough spot. The wealthiest seniors can afford the high costs of aging, and those with few assets qualify for Medicaid. For seniors in the middle, though, families often have to step in to help. Bankrate's tips below focus mainly on resources to help you manage your parents' finances.

As for your kids, the best time to help them is when they're small -- by opening a 529 plan or Coverdell education savings account. If they're seniors in high school and you're already squeezed, your only assistance may be helping them get student loans. Whatever you do, don't be tempted to dip into your retirement accounts to help out Mom, Dad or the kids. That's financial suicide.

Educate yourself on the legal issues. Even if your parents don't own a home or have significant assets, arrange to meet with an elder law attorney. It's difficult to sift through such legal documents as a living will, last will and testament or living trust. And power of attorney issues are complex. For instance, there's a difference between power of attorney and durable power of attorney.

"If you have a power of attorney over a parent, but not a durable power of attorney, and your parent develops dementia, then your power is gone," says elder law attorney Craig Reaves of Reaves Law Firm in Kansas City, Mo.

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To find an elder law attorney in your area, ask friends for a referral or contact the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys for recommendations.

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