Chances are that many of you are members of what has been termed “the sandwich generation” -- taking center stage in the care of both your children and your aging parents.

Chances are that many of you are members of what has been termed “the sandwich generation” -- taking center stage in the care of both your children and your aging parents.

In fact, an estimated 42 percent of Americans fit into this category. The stresses related to essentially parenting both your kids and your folks can seem overwhelming, but with some planning and a logical approach to the future, the financial tensions can be lightened.

With all due respect to your parents, your financial priority should be to your immediate family. You may feel compelled to put your own financial plans on hold now that you are your parents' keepers, but it's a huge compromise to put your own (and your children's) financial future on hold to take care of a parent.

Stay the course by putting the maximum into your 401(k) account and take advantage of all other benefits your employer may offer.

Now is not the time to run up debt, particularly if you've taken on some of the financial responsibility for your parents. Although your situation may seem overwhelming, try to put some money aside each month in an emergency fund.
  
It may seem like the tables have turned,  but if you have become the primary caretaker for your parents, you need to know about their finances.
   
First, find out where their important documents are located and how to get to them and then be sure all paperwork (such as wills, power of attorney and health care proxies) have been reviewed by a professional and updated if necessary. Know the location of their bank accounts. Take inventory of all assets and consolidate accounts when possible. Understand what types of insurance coverage and benefits they have.

By the time you are caring for your parents, it may be a bit late to inquire about long-term-care insurance, but late may be better than never.

The premiums may seem high, particularly if your parents are in their 70s or 80s and not in the best of health, but long-term-care insurance is one option to consider.
 
If you have no clue about their finances, you and your remaining parent could be in for quite a shock in the event of a death. Even smaller estates may leave a probate mess or a death tax to pay that could have been avoided with proper planning.

John P. Napolitano is the CEO of U.S. Wealth Management in Braintree, Mass..
E-mail him at  biznews@ledger.com or call him at 617-786-7073.