Financial wellbeing and health of sandwich generation affected by Covid-19

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Sandwich generation’s health and financial wellbeing most impacted by the COVID-19 crisis: Prudential study

financial wellbeing

Everyone is feeling the strain from living with the COVID-19 pandemic, but Singaporeans aged between 35 and 54 appear to be hit the hardest. This group of young to middle-aged adults is part of the “sandwich generation” – individuals responsible for caring both for their parents and children.

Findings from Prudential Singapore’s (“Prudential”) study, “Re-imagining 100: The pandemic’s impact on longevity”, reveal that one in two Singaporeans (51 percent) aged between 35 and 54 have experienced a deterioration in their financial wellbeing since the onset of the pandemic. This number is higher than the younger (40 per cent) and older (45 per cent) age groups.

Re-imagining 100: The pandemic’s impact on longevity is the fifth research study from Prudential’s Ready for 100 series. It is part of a series of three reports that together explore how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected people’s wellbeing and their preparedness for the future.

The other two reports in the series are, “Re-imagining 100: The pandemic’s impact on healthy ageing” and “Re-imagining 100: Financial planning amidst a crisis”. In addition to a survey of 1,218 residents, a panel of subject-matter experts was also interviewed for this study. The research is conducted by Economist Impact (formerly the Economist Intelligence Unit).

Nearly half (45 per cent) of these adults also recorded higher stress levels and nearly a third (28 per cent) reported poorer physical health compared to those older and younger than them. 41% of those aged between 25 and 34 and 37% of those aged between 55 and 74 reported a worsening of their stress levels. 26% of those aged between 25 and 34 and 20% of those aged between 55 and 74 reported a deterioration in their physical health.

Mr Dennis Tan, CEO, Prudential Singapore said it is fathomable that respondents aged between 35 and 54 feel more adversely affected by the pandemic than others.

“The sandwich generation was already struggling with supporting their ageing parents and growing children. The economic uncertainties created by the COVID-19 pandemic has led to considerable financial stress and intensified the pressure faced by this group of Singaporeans. As a consequence, their health – both mental and physical – has also suffered in the past year,” he said.

Key Study Findings of the survey on health and financial wellbeing

While the sandwich generation has been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, everyone has experienced a shift in the state of their finances, work, relationships and health in the past year.

Has the pandemic worsened the financial wellbeing of people?

Nearly half of those polled (47 per cent) say their financial wellbeing has worsened since the pandemic began. This can be explained by the fact that the employment rate slightly declined last year. Among those Prudential surveyed, 43 per cent admit their income-earning prospects have deteriorated. Not surprisingly, many (47 per cent) are now questioning their ability to meet financial expenses if an unexpected event such as an illness were to occur.

In addition to increased financial pressures, many Singaporeans experienced considerable work-related stress last year. Most spent the year working from home and struggled with balancing professional demands and family responsibilities. Only half (50 per cent) say they enjoyed remote working.

This financial and work-related stress caused by the pandemic might have affected the quality of people’s relationships. Fewer people today (62 per cent) admit to being happy in their most significant relationship compared to a 2018 Prudential survey, where an overwhelming 92 per cent said they were happy.

Ultimately, it is people’s emotional wellbeing that has taken a toll, as a result of the financial, work- and relationship-related pressures that the pandemic has created. More than one third (35 per cent) of Singaporeans say the state of their mental health has become worse in the past year. For some Singaporeans (25 per cent), their physical health has worsened as well.

Making Progress in Readiness for 100

The study, which is part of Prudential’s wider “Ready for 100” longevity research programme, also examined the pandemic’s impact on Singaporeans’ preparedness for longer lives. At 83.9 years, Singapore enjoys one of the highest life expectancies in the world today – a figure that is steadily rising.

Singaporeans’ financial wellbeing is better now than it was 3 years ago

Encouragingly, it found that Singaporeans appear to be slightly more prepared for longer lives today than when they were surveyed by Prudential in 2018. Notwithstanding the pandemic’s impact on their finances and health in the past year, they have expressed greater confidence in their readiness for longer lives in both these areas.

“This improvement in people’s preparedness for longevity speaks to the resilience and optimism Singaporeans are showing about the future, despite the currently challenging circumstances.

“Keeping up this trend is crucial. People need to recognise the risk of outliving their savings and start early in planning for longevity. We also need to focus on emotional wellbeing as poor mental health can have an adverse impact on physical health and affect quality of life in later years,” said Mr Tan.

In terms of financial readiness, 29 per cent of the respondents said they felt prepared to live to 100, compared to 26 per cent in 2018. From a health perspective, 31 per cent of the respondents said they felt prepared to live to 100, compared to 23 per cent in 2018.

A total of 1,218 Singapore residents aged 25-74 were surveyed in May and June 2021 for this study commissioned by Prudential and conducted by Economist Impact.

Financial wellbeing, retirement and wealth planning

When you reach your late 30s or early 40s, you can start to plan and save for your retirement. You can set aside a certain amount of money to buy a retirement plan. Or you can set it up as a retirement plan cum investment plan so as to start accumulating wealth.

Additional liabilities depending on different life stages

There will also be more liabilities that we acquire along the way. Never leave the coverage too late as you may not be healthy enough and insurers may reject your coverage.

Housing loan liability from the purchase of a house

You may have to cover for other needs depending on your life stages. If you bought a property and incurred new liabilities such as a housing loan, you may want to use a mortgage reducing term assurance (MRTA) or a level term mortgage insurance to provide coverage for this liability.

Written by Ravi Chandran

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