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The Sandwich Generation

April 3, 2009
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I had a wonderful life moment recently. Our son Max is all grown up. As a parent, my work is finished. Oh, I know he may not be all moved out. He will go off to college in the fall, and I he may still find his way back to the homestead. By grown up, I mean he made it to 21 with good values and a sense of humor. He is healthy in body, mind and spirit. And, as a good mother should, I have scarred him just enough to make him interesting.

I love kids. I love them at every age. With my son, my favorite age has always been whatever age he is. As he gets older, he gets more fun. I tolerated endless Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles video viewing when Max was in primary school. Now we actually like the same movies. We play extreme, no-holds-barred ping-pong. That’s an upgrade from Hungry Hungry Hippo. He and his friends are delightful. I love hanging out with them. They are quick witted and goofy and chock full of energy. Wonderful young men and women who have become so independent.

Yes, I love it that he is all grown up. I may – God willing – have grand mothering yet ahead of me. For right now, I am relishing in this wonderful life moment. My job as a mother is finished.

My job as a daughter is just beginning. Hot Rod, Max and I moved to Missouri in 1995. Back in Utah, my dad retired not long after that. You know how it is with parents. That Lion-King-circle-of-life thing. The first half of life is about expanding your capacity; the second half is a struggle to hang on to it. So, as my son grows independent, my parents become more dependent. Once Papu retired, he started to get more forgetful. I sold him and Yai Yai on moving out to our place. I promised my sisters and my brother that the folks could live out their lives with us on Know It All Lane.

It is the natural order of things. We are the sandwich generation…sandwiched between growing kids and growing-older parents.

What is weird is talking about what they want to have happen as they get older. It is better to have all the DNR and care-giving requests discussed before you get old, because, gosh, it is just so darn hard to bring it up then. And how to assign keepsakes and family jewelry? You want to do the right thing but avoid bringing it up because it sounds like you are hurrying them into the grave. So you put off having the discussion, just like you put off planning your business exit strategy.

Finding a Way Out
There are only a few ways to exit any business:
  1. Way Out: Death or debilitating illness. The owner just can’t do it anymore.
  2. Way Out: Shut it down. The owner gets so sick and tired of it that he just closes the doors and disconnects the phone.
  3. Way Out: Enslave the children. Pass it along to the next generation.
  4. Way Out: Attempt to sell… and if that doesn’t work, move to Way Out #3, #2 or #1
  5. Craft a “Way Out Plan” and Put It Into Action. Here’s the key to this one: Start now. This involves crafting a vision, strategy and plan for your company that will create transferable wealth and flexible exit options. This means being able to exit your company on your timetable, realizing wealth for the seller and continued profitability for the new owner (maybe a child, maybe an investor.) Very few business owners pull this off.

      You can expand your own options by crafting a vision for your life…and acting on a plan to make it materialize. Money provides levels of independence that poverty does not. Money buys options, but at some point money doesn’t count anymore. Handle the money and the Way Out responsibly, then sit back and wait for the time when all that’s desired is someone to hold your hand.

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