On Tuesday (3 Aug), insurance company NTUC Income released the findings from its latest research, focusing on the Sandwich Generation phenomenon in Singapore, which shows the harsh realities about how parents and young Singaporeans view their financial future.
In the month-long research, 94% of parents (aged 35-55 years old) surveyed revealed that they were currently pressured between having to financially support their growing children and their ageing parents. The majority of these parents also believed that their children and grandchildren will continue to get caught in Sandwich Generation trap.
For those who are unaware, the Sandwich Generation refers to people, typically in their thirties or forties, who are responsible for bringing up their own children and caring for their ageing parents.
Meanwhile, when young Singaporeans (aged 21-29 years old) were asked if they believed that they will become the next Sandwich Generation, nearly 80% of them responded affirmatively.
Their top reasons for this included feeling responsible to financially support their retired parents, longer life expectancy of their parents, and the belief that their parents will not have sufficient savings for retirement.
In fact, these concerns of young Singaporeans are not unfounded. The research showed that parents who felt confident about their financial situations when they retire (34% of parents surveyed) ranked their expectation for children to financially support them as the second top reason for believing that their children will become the next Sandwich Generation. This follows their concern in financial preparedness for healthcare in old age due to longer life expectancy.
Furthermore, three in five parents shared that they have yet to start planning for their retirement, and amongst those who had started planning, 59% did not plan for their retirement funds to last until the age of 82 (estimated life expectancy).
The research also highlighted an interesting correlation between young Singaporeans’ confidence in avoiding the Sandwich Generation trap with how much and how openly they discuss retirement adequacy with their parents.
Amongst young Singaporeans who believed that they will be the next Sandwich Generation, more than half felt that they can break the Sandwich Generation cycle. What’s more, 45% of them initiated discussions about financial preparedness and retirement adequacy with their parents.
However, comparing this to young Singaporeans who believed that they will continue to become the next Sandwich Generation, only 16% carried out such conversations with their parents.
Another thought-provoking result from the survey was that young Singaporeans, in addition to making more financial investments for the future, were also prepared to make big personal sacrifices such as not marrying, have fewer or no children to avoid becoming ‘sandwiched’ in the future.
“The survey findings present parents with some stark realities that our children’s generation could face and the drastic sacrifices they are willing to make to ensure their ageing parents are taken care of should they be financially unprepared for retirement,” said Marcus Chew, Chief Marketing Officer at NTUC Income.
“While this highlights the filial piety that is ingrained in our society, it should also make us realise the impact that our current financial and investment habits have on our future generations – that our retirement planning is not just for ourselves, but it also matters to our children and the generations to come. It is clear from the research findings that if today we take appropriate actions to safeguard our retirement adequacy financially, our children can have the confidence of breaking free from the Sandwich Generation trap,” he added.
In the research, majority of young Singaporeans agreed that their parents should prepare for and be financially independent in their retirement. They would like parents to take a more serious view on their retirement planning. Almost half of the young Singaporeans surveyed worry that their parents would look to them for financial support after they retire.
On a more positive note, the research showed that nine in 10 parents believed that they have better opportunities to prevent their children from becoming the next Sandwich Generation compared to their own parents. More importantly, 86% of parents indicated that their children or future generations would not fall into the Sandwich Generation trap if they were financially independent in their retirement.
In response to the research data, Assistant Professor Tan Poh Lin from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore, said that the information was consistent with the stresses faced by society brought about by multiple factors, which may include higher costs of living, depressed wages and also the fact that people were starting their families later and were not beginning the push to save up enough for their retirement.
She went on to say, “The study and findings provide an opportunity for us to take stock as it involves a segment of society whom are always considered stuck in between the poor and the wealthy. The survey results by Income also provides an opportunity for the general public to have a better understanding of what can be done to put an end, if at all, to the Sandwich Generation phenomenon.”
For a simplified version of the research, check out the infographic below: