In the manual of life no-one says you'll be sandwiched between children and elderly parents.

Be warned. All of a sudden Kiwis of a certain age find themselves pulled like an elastic band between fiscally dependent children who may or may not have hooked up with a financial loser, and parents who suddenly need care and/or protection from money grubbing parasites out to pillage their life savings.

Most of the time the burden falls to Gen-X women, says Charlotte Lockhart of trust company Perpetual Guardian.

I'm hearing an increasingly familiar sigh from Gen-Xers and younger Baby Boomers finding themselves sandwiched between needy children and parents and sometimes at a loss of what to do - or worn out by it.


The children are the easiest to deal with. They may need financial help to get through university and possibly buy their first home. But they also need to be taught as soon as possible to stand on their own two feet financially and not be bailed out by Mum and Dad. The faster they launch as financially independent adults the better for all involved. Extended support isn't always good for the long-term financial wellbeing of children.

On the other half of the sandwich, the older generation can be a lot trickier. They absolutely 100 per cent have the right to make their own financial decisions, which many families seem to forget. But their adult offspring need to be on their toes watching for indications Mum or Dad aren't coping with their own care or money, and that no one is abusing them financially.

Every time I write about older people and their money, heartwrenching stories wing their way into my inbox. The recurring themes are family taking advantage of older people or even helping themselves to the person's money; commission salespeople or scammers duping them; and carers abusing them financially.

Even charities hound many elderly people with begging letters as the Herald reported in September.

A bad situation can be compounded if the older person is suffering from undiagnosed or early stage dementia, which makes them easy game.

The issues the sandwich generation end up embroiled in include helping their parents move into care at an appropriate time, or at least to downsize.

Greedy adult children see "their inheritance", which of course belongs to the older person, disappearing into the pockets of rest home owners.

This is a monumental task when it comes to a lifetime of sentimental belongings. Throw into the mix siblings who disagree with the decision of moving into a home and you have all the ingredients for a family falling out.

Greedy adult children see "their inheritance", which of course belongs to the older person, disappearing into the pockets of rest home owners.


A common scenario is that mum gives her Eftpos card to a family member (or carer) to buy the groceries. After a while the family member starts pulling into the petrol station and filling up on the Eftpos card.

Next thing it's a holiday "to recharge my batteries after looking after mum" or money for the business, says Lockhart. Eventually the theft, because that's what it is, gets out of hand. The perpetrator starts to isolate the older person so other family members don't find out.

Readers have told me stories where they have been excluded from visiting relatives after one member of the family took control.

This is one of the reasons that Lockhart recommends older people choose an independent party such as a trust company or lawyer to hold their power of attorney. Someone independent doesn't have the emotional attachment.

The Banking Ombudsman Nicola Sladden also recommends an independent attorney for financial matters.

Sometimes the older person is in denial about his or her failing physical or mental capacity and it's up to the younger generation to at least lay important issues on the table such as powers of attorney and executorship.

On the banking front there are practical steps caring children can do to lessen the risks, says Sladden. That includes advising parents about how to keep their account details and PIN secret.

Another very good tip is to ensure that they only have day-to-day spending money accessible through that Eftpos card. That limits the chances of someone emptying the bank account.

It's a very good idea to talk to older (and younger) generations about scams, which are becoming increasingly sophisticated.

Families should also consider using professional executors, says Lockhart. "I know it sounds like we're tooting our own horns. (But) people often think it will be cheaper and easier to do it themselves until the family falls out while scrapping over money," she says.

It also takes a huge amount of stress away from families, who may not have the skills or time to deal with the issue.