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One if three Brits now in the ‘stretched middle’

24 October 2014 | Press release

  1. 15 million Brits in the ‘Stretched Middle’ are financially supporting younger OR older family members
  2. Over a million people are now simultaneously financially responsible for BOTH younger and older family members
  3. On average parents spend £10,252 per year on their children (with £6,411 of this spent on adult children 22+) while those supporting older family members spend £1,367

With people living longer and children staying at home until their mid-20s one in three (15 million)(1) British adults are now becoming part of the Stretched Middle – having financial responsibility for someone other than themselves.

At the same time, growing numbers of people are joining the ‘Sandwich Generation’, having to fund family at both ends of the spectrum, such as their parents and children as well as themselves.

The Sandwich Generation – born out of an ageing population(2) combined with couples having children later in life(3) – are being hit with a ‘double caring’ responsibility, as they are looking after their children as well as parents, older family members and in some cases grandchildren. According to research by protection specialist LV=, it is estimated that over a million Brits are now members of the Sandwich Generation. More than any other age group, the pressure is on them to keep earning, in order to fund the care and lifestyles of loved ones.

The main areas of financial support the Sandwich Generation are paying for includes: food and household bills (54%), paying off debts (54%), home renovations (23%), medical care (32%) and education fees (11%).

Yet, few find this support easy, with close to half (45%) saying the financial pressure is challenging, while one in four (25%) have had to take out a loan to subsidise family members and 8% have had to increase their working hours or take on a second job (5%).

And it’s not just the cost of support that’s having an impact, but time too, as nearly half (44%) of people in the Sandwich Generation have to balance working full-time with spending an additional 19 hours each week caring for a parent or older relative and twice as many hours (39 hours per week) looking after a younger relative.

Meanwhile, with the majority of people now living well into their 80s, approximately three million people in the UK are now supporting an older relative. On average younger relatives spend £1,367 per year supporting older relatives with a third (33%) helping towards care costs and four in ten (40%) helping supplement retirement income with regular financial hand outs.

On the other end of the spectrum, financially supporting children no longer ends once they reach 18, as the new figures show that more than one in ten (14%) Brits are financially relied upon by their adult children. This help proves costly with parents spending on average £6,411 a year to help their adult children (those aged 22+) with bills (36%), accommodation costs (30%) and paying off their debts (28%).

Yet for some flying the nest is a distant dream as rising rents and property prices are forcing many young adults to stay in their family home for longer. The latest figures show 3.3 million young people still live at home with over a quarter of those aged between 20 and 24 still living with their parents(4).

Richard Rowney, LV= Life and Pensions Managing Director, said: “The research shows how the changing nature of modern families is placing real financial pressure on those who are providing support to others. This help often lasts for many years longer than people may have originally thought.

“Nobody wants to think about the possibility of getting ill or being made redundant however the reality is that some of us will be off work for a period of time at some point in our career. Having a contingency plan, such as income protection in place offers you peace of mind that if you fell ill or were made redundant you would receive a regular income which would enable you to carry on supporting yourself and your loved ones.”

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  1. According to online research conducted by ICM using a sample of 2,003 UK adults in September 2014. Results have been weighted to a nationally representative criteria.
  2. Source: ONS National Life Tables 2013
  3. Source: ONS Cohort Fertility, England and Wales, 2012
  4. Source: a total of 3.3 million 20- to 34-year-olds lived with their parents in 2013, according to the Office for National Statistics, the highest number since it started keeping records in 1996

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