Baby boomers feeling the squeeze

WASHINGTON – As baby boomers edge within sight of retirement, many find themselves squeezed by the financial needs of their aging parents or adult children.

A poll by the Pew Research Center found that 29 percent of baby boomers whose parents are alive provide the parents with financial help. At the same time, 68 percent of those boomers with adult children help them financially.

Thirteen percent of all baby boomers provide financial support to both parents and children, the poll found.

“Most are finding that they are not in the Age of Aquarius but in the age of responsibility,” said a Pew report based on the poll released Thursday.

Franne Demetrician of Franklin Park, N.J., knows the story well. Demetrician, 56, works two jobs, but still makes time to help care for her 78-year-old mother, who has Alzheimer’s disease, as well as her 2-year-old grandson.

“I always wanted to be there for my parents when they got older, but this was not expected,” she said. “I don’t think that I ever thought that I would be so worried about how safe everybody is, and so frustrated that I can’t fix everything.”

The 75 million baby boomers now range in age from 41 to 59, with the oldest to turn 60 in January.

Every generation goes through a “sandwich” phase, in which it is called upon to help support both older and younger generations, said Paul Taylor, executive vice president of the Pew Research Center.

But demographic and economic trends are making it an especially demanding phase for the generation that began after World War II and ran through 1964.

Parents are living longer and young adults are being hit with ever-increasing costs for housing and college. The combination means more responsibilities for those in the middle.

“The sandwich phase of life is not a new phenomenon. All generations go through it,” Taylor said. “It’s just lasting longer for boomers.”

Among baby boomers, 71 percent have at least one living parent, according to the Pew poll. A Gallup poll in 1989 found that 60 percent of people age 41 to 59 had at least one living parent.

Among the Pew poll’s findings:

_About half of baby boomers expect some type of private investment account to be their biggest source of income in retirement. Twenty-one percent expect Social Security to be their largest source and 19 percent expect employer pension plans to provide the bulk of their money.

Among people already retired, 42 percent said Social Security is their largest source of income.

_55 percent of baby boomers said that once they retire, they expect to either “live very comfortably” or “meet expenses with a little left over.” Twenty-four percent said they expect to just meet basic living expenses, and 17 percent said they do not expect to have enough for the basics.

_Two thirds of baby boomers said parents have a responsibility to pay for their children’s college education, an opinion that varied little with income. But only one-third of boomers said parents have a responsibility to provide housing for adult children.

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