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Thriving In The Face Of Emotional and Financial Demands: A Story From The Sandwich Generation

Kelly Hultgren  |  April 26, 2019

Are you taking care of aging parents and raising children at the same time? If so, you’re amazing. Take a moment to appreciate all that you do for the people you love — they couldn’t do it without you. You’re an important part of the sandwich generation, a growing cohort of Americans who face the difficult challenge of meeting their own financial needs, while simultaneously meeting the needs of (what may seem like) just about everyone else in their lives.

In HerMoney with Jean Chatzky podcast episode 150, we’re speaking with someone who’s feeling this squeeze right now, Emmy award-winning journalist and producer, Laura Ling. Yes, that Laura Ling… the Laura Ling, who, back in 2009, was arrested and held captive in North Korea for 140 days after reporting on the trafficking of North Korean women. Fast-forward to today, she’s the host of the Everyday Bravery podcast, which documents people overcoming financial hardships.

Whether or not you’re a part of the sandwich generation, you’ll want to tune into Ling’s episode to hear her stories of mentorship and resiliency. Here are a few things we discussed:

The Ultimate Balancing Act

How do you balance your own needs—mental, emotional, physical, financial—with the needs of your loved ones? (Spoiler alert: There’s no one right answer.) Ling shares her story of caring for her aging father while also raising a family of her own. She talks about some of the tough decisions she’s faced, including moving her father into an assisted living center, which, while difficult, was essential for both his safety and her own peace of mind. Above all, she reminds us to make the most of the time we have with our loved ones now: “While you’re concerned about cleaning out his refrigerator and tidying his place, you could be creating these amazing memories with him,” says Ling.

Preventing History From Repeating Itself

“When you have kids, there are so many books about saving for them,” says Ling. “When it comes to your [aging] parents, it can just hit, you’re not prepared, and you don’t expect it.” For many families, this means they may tap into their emergency savings, which is why Ling and her husband have discussed a separate savings account for her dad. Ling’s experience also has her thinking about how she’s managing her money now so that her kids won’t face something similar down the road. “I want to be in a position where my kids aren’t struggling,” she says.

Finding A Mentor

On Ling’s podcast, Everyday Bravery, each guest is paired with a mentor, including her. She shares her experience with having one and how it’s changed her life and perspective. Do you have a mentor? If not, what’s holding you back? In many cases, asking is the hardest part. Instead of opening with the big question, “Will you be my mentor?” Ling recommends starting slow, as you might with dating. Call them up and then ask her/him out for coffee or lunch, then get the conversation going and see where things go, suggests Ling.

Strengthening Your Resiliency Muscle

During HerMoney’s chat with Ling, she took us back to her jail cell in North Korea, sharing what she did everyday to stay hopeful, strong and resilient. Her “ritual,” which she still practices to this day, is one worth adopting: “I would sit every evening before I went to sleep. I would sit cross-legged and I would close my eyes and I would think about something that happened in that day that I actually felt grateful for. Despite this bleak situation — this really horrifying situation I was in — I would say to myself, for example, ‘I feel lucky that I saw a butterfly outside the window. Even though I can’t go outside and breathe the fresh air’… focusing on those small things allowed me to get onto the next day.”

Listen to the full conversation here: 

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