The BBC’s ‘Your Money and Your Life’ Checks In With the Sandwich Generation

“Blended families” aren’t just created via divorce and remarriage. People also need to blend in Mom and Dad.

Photo credit: yoppy, CC BY 2.0.

The third episode of the BBC’s “Your Money and Your Life” series deals with forty- and fiftysomethings, and as a listener you notice right away that these interviewees sound much more secure—which isn’t to say that their finances are necessarily more secure, but that they’ve stopped caring what other people think of them.

Forty and Fifty-Somethings, Your Money and Your Life – BBC Radio 4

Divorce is still a huge concern—the BBC notes that the average age of divorce is 45 for men and 42 for women—and the first half of the piece deals with (once again) the complication of “blended families.” Instead of interviewing a woman who is disappointed in herself for not remembering to measure her children against the wall, however, this time we get a woman who matter-of-factly states that she declined the money she was entitled to receive from her ex-husband because she wanted him to be able to afford a place that included a bedroom for her daughter when she visited him.

The BBC interviews a divorce lawyer who says that people in their 40s and 50s are having more magnanimous divorces than people of previous generations because they don’t have the money for lengthy court battles. The mediated, “peaceful” divorce is cheaper, she explains, so that’s what people are choosing.

They’re also operating under the understanding that their exes will remain in their lives, at least to some extent, even after the divorce—especially if they are co-parents. The BBC notes, however, that this comes with a literal cost: “The cost of supporting a previous family can also damage any new relationship.” Maybe people don’t have enough money to go on dates; maybe they can’t afford to bring additional children into their life (even with the help of another adult); maybe they just no longer want to combine finances—or family—with anybody else.

But they’re going to have to, whether or not they get divorced or remarried. The Biggest Finance/Family Blending of All is coming, and it’s called “how to provide care to aging parents.”

The BBC interviews a woman who is providing care for both her 18-year-old son (who has Down Syndrome) and her 97-year-old father. She had hoped to get assistance in both cases, but she has learned from a social worker that transitioning young adults with disabilities into semi-independent care homes is no longer “the trend,” and her father will not receive any help from the government until he has spent down his assets. So she is fully responsible for both her son and her father, and has to figure out how to make that work for her household.

“Nobody’s planned for this financially,” the BBC reminds us, even though I think about my own retirement constantly and know that I need to keep my parents’ retirement in mind as well. I’d suggest that the “nobody” in this case is less the individual and more the social structures in which we live—but that’ll have to wait until next week, when the final installment of this series asks sixtysomethings what they’ve done to plan for retirement, and whether they think that’s enough to last them through the ends of their lives.


The BBC’s ‘Your Money and Your Life’ Worries About Thirtysomethings’ Instability

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