Friday, September 06, 2019

Sorry ! You can never escape being part of the Sandwich Generation.

I'd just like to take the opportunity to provide a personal update on this post and take the opportunity to point out to everyone NTUC Income's fairly viral advertisement on retirement planning that forms the theme of my personal update today.

The conclusion I'd like readers to accept is this : There is no escape from being part of the Sandwich Generation. Managing your finances well can, at most,  mitigate the negative effects of being part of it.

a) Training business and marketing

First of all, if you are familiar with the going on in the Finance Blogosphere Wu Lin, my business partner Dr Wealth had to apologise to FAs for an overly aggressive marketing email that was sent out this week.

While the issue did not concern my ERM Masterclass, I was affected somewhat by the event as I did volunteer little help to review the email to see whether any legal liability has resulted from it. Even as I found no legal risk, it led me think about the current conventional approach of marketing aggressively via email which have its fair share of critics as of late.

Direct emails are important because they have a broad reach. But the truth is that a trainer's personal brand can be affected negatively by the quality of these marketing emails. For months, I can only review these email broadcasts on hindsight. As a non-employee, I don't have powers of vetting over these documents. Needless to say, my good friends and customers have given me some really blunt and candid feedback regarding this marketing approach when sharing with me on why they unsubscribed from the channel.

At this stage, I still believe that my business partners know what they are doing, but I have subtly proposed a shift in the way the ERM class does business.

Last night we concluded a fairly good evening where my audience were driven by my investment articles and not by those emails sent to the mailbox so I am going to start getting my leads without direct mail for a month or two to see if I can sustain my course intake. More importantly, I had a friendly crowd what I could genuinely interact with.

If you wish to review the quality of these posts that I will be using to get new leads, you can refer to this link here. So bottom line, I really hope that I will not need to spam your mailboxes in the future.

Consequently, as a peace offering, I stopped asking my preview attendees whether they trust financial advisors, instead, I ask a less confrontational question which I shared above.

All these months, I thought I would become the "problematic trainer" who will have the testiest relationship with FAs but, over time, I realise that my biggest allies in the ERM are in fact the licensed financial advisors and tied agents who helped me refine my course material to reflect the truth about the Financial Advisory business and debunk some of the worse tactics used in the industry.

( Even in discussion groups, occasionally I would back Money Maverick and he would come to my defence when I get attacked. We're at the opposite ends of the spectrum and should have been sworn enemies. But life is not simple that way. )

There are good people out there who are really uncomfortable with what's happening in the industry.

Right up to the point that they are volunteering to help me - the proverbial Satan in the insurance agent cosmology !

( For no referral fee, I can introduce my FA allies to you ! )

b) My father's hospitalisation.

Work problems are very microscopic compared to my personal problems.

My dad has gone back to hospital and things seem to be getting worse. Unfortunately for me, visiting relatives heard my dad struggle against nursing staff and then "kindly" decided to advice my mother to move my dad to a new hospital. The result is that my mother could not sleep one entire night, thinking that she did not do right by my dad.

I think my dad's medical numbers are getting better and had to put my foot down to prevent moving my dad. What makes people think that going to older hospital would be better if we preserve the same B2 class ward ? What's next, destroying six digits of wealth by going Mt E ?

Relatives do not pay for our dad's hospital stay and certainly do not play a role in caregiving. They have no right to advice me or my mum on next step. Worse, my mum was sensitive to being called a bad daughter-in-law because she was bullied by my grandmother in the past. I can't allow this to repeat itself.

From now on, I have to balance my mother's welfare against my dad and now have to play the role as an "unfilial son". All decisions made on my dad's behalf are mine and mine alone.

Now tell me how your kids can avoid not becoming a sandwich class when Asian values try to interfere with family decisions.

c) I fired my maid

All in all, my relatives still  meant well, all I had to do is to just ignore them, so the previous issue is microscopic compared to what happened to me yesterday.

My dad on his sick bed received a call from Singtel. My maid took my dad's handphone while he was lying in bed and racked up $800+ of phone bills with calls to Myanmar. I was furious and I just sent my maid back to the agency with a warning never to provide her with employment in Singapore again.

The financial damage is minimal, but my maid received months of caregiver training from Khoo Teck Puat hospital. My mother is so traumatised, we are not getting a new maid in the meantime and she'd rather do the housework herself.

Now my family is in serious trouble.

If my dad gets discharged, there will be no manpower resources to help him at home. I would either have to send him to a home or hire expensive nursing staff to come to my parent's flat. So far, my father has mental capacity and will not be willing to be put in a home.

There is no workable solution so far other than to get my dad round the idea that he needs professional care that my mum and me cannot provide. When we tried and he got rehospitalised as a result.

As a trainer for Early Retirement, I'm going to say that no amount of money can prevent you from joining the Sandwich class. I think this is an impossible aspiration and I don't want it any other way myself.

In fact, the future is even worse.

As we find a solution to cancer and live-spans increase to 110, we may end up with a Double Sandwiched class - A generation that supports 3 generations at the same time because people are living so long.

Finally, we are Asian, even if the family is wealthy, family ties and smaller households will mean spending the Autumn of our lives caring for our loved ones and spending time in their service.

My dad has given to me so much as he only had one child.

Now I have to make the tough decisions on his behalf.


  1. You may call up AIC to enquire about subsidised care e.g. nursing homes, home nursing, day care centres (can be provided by some nursing homes), transportation etc.

    The only way to escape is if the elderly parents die a relatively quick death, ideally relatively painless too.

    That's what happened to my sis-in-law --- both her parents died from terminal illnesses; one from advanced cancer (6 mths from diagnosis) and the other from massive stroke (1 week coma & brain death). She was lucky in that both parents were still relatively independent till their deaths (the one with cancer only became really weak in the final 2 mths), and my bro & sis-in-law moved in with her parents to help out soon after the diagnosis.

    LTC insurance will only become more popular in future, and will evolve to cover community hospitals, nursing homes, day care services, home nursing, PT or full-day home health aides, caregiver training, home modification, medical equipment, etc and not just $600 per month.

    Also I predict I will see voluntary euthanasia legislation in my lifetime (at least some serious discussions about it in parliament).

  2. Yeah, I definitely want to go via the Voluntary Euthanasia route for myself. Really don't wish to impose this on my kids.

  3. Hi Chris,

    What do the numbers of 36 and 6 mean?


  4. This discussion about end of life and advanced care planning is overdue. Unfortunately, being of Asian mentality, this is a taboo subject and most elderly do not have this sorted out. Then it is left to the family members to decide for them.
    I have seen ill, very elderly patients being kept in Icu for many many days even weeks because family members do not want to 'pull the plug' even when advised by medical personnel that the illness is not reversible.
    This is usually worsened by family members who are not directly caring for the patient.
    I applaud your decision and stance that this is your dad and you and your mum alone are making the decision. Moving a patient will also mean that a new set of medical personnel will be overseeing your dad and they have to learn your dad's illness. You should only move if the particular hospital doesn't have the expertise or genuinely, you feel that care is compromised.
    BTW, I am medical and deal with ill and dying patients on a daily basis.

  5. Magnum opus.

    I support your position with regards to moving your sick dad. I’m also hoping that voluntary euthanasia bill will come through one day.

  6. Good post.

    I think what the current generation of millennials don't realise, is that no insurance product is going to solve their problem of being part of a sandwiched generation.

    Sure, if people live longer lives, where lifespans stretch out to 100 years, there may be long term care insurance products out there, but surely they would not be good bets to make, because you're betting against the insurance companies? Insurance, fundamentally, was never designed to serve a social need - it's a product for profits created because insurance companies can use the float from the premiums collected to make the insurance companies richer.

    The better solution would be to have a really high savings rate, and be the best possible investor you can be. The main hurdle to having a high savings rate is then having a job or some form of cash flow/income generating opportunity (preferable sustainable) which gives you an income large enough to have a high savings rate, so if you're not there, then upskill and upskill until you stumble upon such an opportunity. And have the wisdom to maintain a high savings rate while other people spend away, knowing that you have an edge to avoid negative future scenarios which others don't have the foresight to see.