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Advice for South Africans supporting their parents

26 January 2022
3 minute read
family on a couch

By Denise Mhlanga

If you are part of the sandwich generation, it’s possible you’re trying to prioritise your own retirement while also taking care of your retired parents. Here’s some advice on how to navigate that situation.

1. Communicate with your parents

Talk to your parents openly and honestly about your – and their – financial situations. It can be uncomfortable, but you do need to talk about it – and find practical solutions. It may also help to have a more neutral third party – like a qualified financial adviser – join the conversation and help you all to come up with a workable plan. This blog has great tips on how to have a family meeting about money.

2. You don’t have to do it alone

If you have siblings who are working, get them on board. No one child should have to carry this burden alone. This has the advantage of not only getting you some financial help, but a shared emotional load too. Plus, they might have some ideas on how to deal with the issue that you haven’t thought of!

3. Draw up a budget

A budget helps everyone understand exactly what your parent’s financial constraints are and how they can help financially.

For example, a siblings’ stokvel could be the answer. Each sibling could contribute monthly what they can afford towards the stokvel.

A grocery stokvel can help reduce the monthly amount given to the parents. In January, siblings can each start putting away money into a savings account. These funds can be withdrawn in December and used to buy bulk non-perishable groceries for your parents that would ideally last for six to 12 months.

The budget should also take into account unexpected future living expenses, for example medical expenses and home repairs,

You may also need to investigate options for future care if your parents become too ill or frail to either live by themselves or live with you. This would include looking at facilities close by what they charge and what services they offer. 

4. Planning for accommodation

If you have the room, it may make sense to move your parents into your house, or into a cottage if you have one, to save on expenses like rent. For parents who own their property, it could be a good idea to look into selling a bigger property and buying them something small and manageable.

5. Outline other contributions your parents could make

Even if your parents don’t have a job, there are other ways they can contribute to the household. For instance, they could help out with childcare and homework, cleaning and even cooking for the family while you are working.

Or perhaps they could take on a small side hustle, using skills they already have – or even learn a new skill, if they are up to the challenge. This could enable them to get contract or part-time paid work.

6. Encourage healthy living

Working for longer and maintaining a healthy lifestyle will help parents save on medical expenses and ensure that they can work for longer.

7. Ensure your parents are taking advantage of any government grants

Government social grants and pensions don’t pay out vast sums of money, but ensure your parents apply for any they are eligible for. Check out the Department of Labour and SASSA websites for details.

If both parents qualify for social or government grants, help them to put away small amounts in fixed deposit accounts. At the end of the year, if they want to buy gifts for their grandchildren or spoil themselves, they can use these savings.

8. Ensure they don’t fall for any scams!

Scammers often prey on the elderly, precisely because so many older people don’t have a lot of money and are easily lured by get-rich-quick schemes. Ensure your parents don’t get themselves into trouble by educating them on money scams and how scammers work.

Lastly, talking to friends in a similar situation about how they are coping will help. You could even find a money buddy.

With some honest, open communication, collaboration, and creativity, you can find a way to make this work for everyone!

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