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‘Sandwich generation’ feeling squeezed

Jennifer Kwan
LOGAN, KS - AUGUST 24: Three generations of Becker farmers - Loyd, 86, Charlie, 19, and Darren, 47 stand in drought parched field on the Becker farm August 24, 2012 in Logan, Kansas. Like many Kansas farmers affected by the record drought, the Beckers are working hard to hang on to their farm, which has been in their family for five generations. Most of Kansas is still in extreme or exceptional drought, despite recent lower temperatures and thunderstorms, according to the University of Nebraska's Drought Monitor. The record-breaking drought, which has affected more than half of the continental United States, is expected to drive up food prices by 2013 due to lower crop harvests and the adverse effect on the nation's cattle industry. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Do you save for yourself, your children and care for your parents?

Canada's sandwich generation -- people caring for both children and aging parents -- are finding it tougher to save for retirement because they're struggling to juggle various financial duties.

Turns out 48 per cent of Canadians are worried that saving for their children will impair their own ability to finance retirement, while 36 per cent think caring for their aging parents will eat into retirement savings, according to a Royal Bank of Canada poll released this week.

"It's a bit daunting to try and balance all of that," said Amalia Costa, head of retirement strategies at RBC.

"The reality is that many are in a situation where they don't have a workplace pension plan," she added. "Clearly there's greater reliance on your own individual savings at a time when you're feeling pressure from other family priorities."

Costa noted about three-quarters of people polled do not have an employer pension plan, which highlights the urgency to get a long-term savings plan in place.

The poll found that 26 per cent of expect that an employer pension will be their primary source of retirement income, yet fewer than one in five of have a defined-benefit plan.

The struggle to save has been a growing trend over the past couple of years amid a rocky global economic recovery. A separate survey released last week showed nearly two-thirds of Canadians say they simply can't afford to invest. Confidence in savings is shaky, too, with 19 per cent saying they hadn't invested enough. That's down sharply from 29 per cent in 2010, according to the Scotiabank poll.

Banks and other financial institutions, which are big sellers of mutual funds and financial advice, have in recent weeks published various surveys on retirement savings ahead of a March 1 deadline for RRSP contributions.

But it's not all doom and gloom. For those in the sandwich generation, RBC's Costa said there are a few ways to create good savings habits even when, after all is said and done, there's not a lot of money left over:

Look for hidden sources of contribution funds
If you have debt, take advantage of lower interest rates to reduce overall borrowing costs. One ways is consolidating higher-interest credit card balances into a loan or home equity line with a lower interest rate.

Pay yourself first
Setting up an automatic contribution plan to coincide with payroll deposits. The funds come off the top and are often not missed.

Start thinking about a retirement income plan
Envision your retirement lifestyle and focus your budget to fund the plan to ensure a certain lifestyle can be attainable.

The RBC poll was conducted by Ipsos Reid between Oct. 24 and Nov. 27and surveyed 1,225 Canadians aged 18 to 54.