Families saving for their children’s futures and that of aging parents find little is left for their own golden years

They have yet to tackle Grade 8 science, but today Seliya dreams of being a teacher or dermatologist and Rahim wants to be a surgeon or an astronaut.

With that in mind, their parents, Al-Karim and Mina Mawani, have been saving as much as they can – for Seliya’s and Rahim’s university education, but also to care for Ms. Mawani’s aging parents, who live two blocks away from their home in Richmond Hill, Ont.

When it comes to socking away money for their golden years, the Mawanis are no different from others in the so-called sandwich generation.

“My husband and I think of that as a third priority,” Ms. Mawani said.

“We have to sit down and say to ourselves, ‘Okay, it’s still going to be another 20 years of working life.’ And right now the priority is that in nine years my daughter will go to university, in less than nine years my parents may need more support. When you look at the time frame, we keep thinking these are the first two priorities.”

Al-Karim Mawani and Mina Mawani are shown in their Richmond Hill, Ont., home with son Rahim and daughter Seliya. The Mawanis are trying to save for their children and care for their elderly parents, but they don’t have pension plans and their RRSPs have been hit hard by the market meltdown.

Ms. Mawani, 42, an executive officer for the Aga Khan Council for Canada, and her 44-year-old husband, a family physician, are by no means struggling. But they don’t live lavish lives, either.

Neither have pension plans, and like other Canadians, their retirement investments have been hit hard by the market meltdown.

Their story, echoed by many others, is worrisome to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and his provincial counterparts who have launched a study on retirement savings that some hope could lead to a new savings scheme for Canadians.

The Mawanis began building their RRSPs soon after they graduated from university. They still set aside money, but other priorities have taken hold.

Ms. Mawani’s parents, at the age of 70 and 66, live off their retirement savings, but they don’t have medical insurance.

In Ms. Mawani’s Ismaili-Muslim culture, children look after their parents, and so her siblings do as much as they can to contribute.

The Mawanis live closest to the retired couple and take care of a good portion of the expenses, which are bound to keep increasing as her parents grow older.

They could be looking at nursing help down the road, for example.

The other worry is the rising cost of a university education.

The couple took out RESPs for Seliya, 9, and seven-year-old Rahim, but know it will not be enough.

She believes that the working group should also examine the cost of a university education and how children can enter the knowledge society “without having all us parents break our backs to do that.”

She also believes that programs for seniors should be discussed, which, in turn, would help the sandwich generation and encourage people like her to keep saving for their retirement.

“If they were to help out more with the seniors, then I wouldn’t have this heavy heart thinking that I need to make sure that I have enough money to support my parents, and make sure I have enough money when I hear about how much university will cost in 10 years,” Ms. Mawani said.

“It’s not like we have millions saved up. We’re saving and we say to ourselves that we’ve got another 10, 15, 20 years of working life. We base our entire premise on that. If I were to become disabled, or he were to become disabled, or something were to happen to one of us, that’s what we worry about.”

“If that were to happen, I think it would be a really bad situation.”

Source: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/