Top 5 Challenges For “Club Sandwich” Expatriates

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I am not going to share the best club sandwich recipe you can find in Canada or Mexico. I am talking about the challenges to be a baby boomer also called the “sandwich generation”  for taking care of their aging parents and children at the same time and  the so-called “club sandwich generation” with additional layers like grand children to take care of.  Of course living abroad does not help and expatriation is adding challenges in how you manage your family as a working baby boomer.

Here are Top Challenges:

  1. Health
  2. Education
  3. Finance
  4. Retirement
  5. Elderly care for aging parents

1-Healthcare: For the majority of late expat boomers not yet retired(46-60), the biggest challenge is staying healthy to be able to work under increasing pressure as the world economy collapses, raise children and take care of their aging parents.  Half of expatriates believe that health care standards in their new home are inferior to those in their country of origin, according to an article from the Telegraph. One in five – equivalent to around 38 million people around the globe – believe that their health has deteriorated since they moved abroad. This can only be worse if you are an old  “club sandwich” expat fighting with jet lag and 24/7 workload. Usually most expat executives  working for global companies have good healthcare package but if they lose their job they also can rapidly end with no coverage for healthcare costs.

When I was living in Japan I often spent my summer vacation in France so I always did  check-ups there as medical care  was better quality in France.

In the USA, we had 100% coverage so we were happy with the level of medical services, higher than in France in my opinion.

2-Education: The challenge of raising  Third Culture Kids (TCKs) starts with the selection of languages, what is best if we don’t know which country we go next ? English or Bi-lingual education ? local school systems?

We decided that our son will have English at school and French at home and we chose international schools to have same curriculum to get the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) that can open doors to many universities in the world. Often parents of kids in 11 and 12 grades have to let them finish the school years even if the rest of the family has to move to another country, this is quite tough on 16 to 18-year-old children.

3-Finance : A lot of expats lost money with the worldwide financial crisis. One reason can be the fluctuation of currency exchange rates. For those paid in US Dollars and who are  paying university tuitions, house mortgage and elderly care in Euros, the loss can be huge as the $ has drop and will remain weaker than the Euro. Many who have been repatriated and had to sell their house in 2009-2010  did it with minimum 30% less than the value they purchased the property 3 years before. For those interested in buying properties it might be difficult to get credit as a non-permanent resident.

4-Retirement : one of the most difficult questions for expats is where will they retire? If they have children they might plan to retire where their children study or go back to their home country to take care of their aging parents. You might need to work longer than planned as pension plans have lost a lot of money and it is not the best timing to cash in your retirement savings. In some cases you cannot get pensions plan from your home country because you worked too long outside Europe for example. There is no agreement between USA and Europe regarding public pension plans, therefore all the years you worked in USA will not count for calculating your pension.

5-Elderly care Hopefully people live longer and healthier and a lot of people in their 80s are very active and independent. For dependent parents like people with Alzheimer it can be very difficult to find reliable services in the home country and it is putting a lot of guilt on expatriates who cannot stay close to their parents. On the other hand you made a conscious choice by becoming a “club sandwich expatriate”, you might not be physically present but you are earning enough money to provide better healthcare than if you were working in your home country. That’s a trade-off and is 100% your choice

Conclusion: Before accepting a short-term or long-term expatriation or planning a retirement overseas you might need to look at pro and cons that work for YOU and your family.

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4 thoughts on “Top 5 Challenges For “Club Sandwich” Expatriates

  1. @Coach_Colette October 12, 2010 at 10:51 pm Reply

    Great insights here, Anne. What struck me about healthcare also is the fact that systems vary from country to country. I could imagine club sandwich expatriates having challenges determining which things are covered as they and their children/parents progess on in years. Thanks for sharing this helpful info!

    • Anne Egros, Global Executive Coach October 12, 2010 at 11:05 pm Reply

      Thank you Colette,
      You are too young to worry now about healthcare but it is true that medical practices are highly cultural and health care systems are very different from one country to another especially in Europe. There is no Europe, each country has its own system, quality and prices vary greatly. I might collect some personal stories about health care and post them on my personal Facebook page.

  2. chaumierelesiris January 10, 2012 at 4:54 pm Reply

    All of this rings very true. I never think about it explicitly, but there are so many additional decisions to make all the time – down to what language will the children speak, how will they be educated and what currency will you pay for things in. I think some of today’s technologies and services – particularly Skype, and transparent currency exchange – do help.

    • Anne Egros, Global Executive Coach January 11, 2012 at 11:09 am Reply

      Thanks for the comment. Agree that technology helps but still there are so many factors that need to be taken into consideration when you live abroad. I hope guilt is not one of them when it is about taking care of aging parents for example.

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