Adult Children Moving Home

While I have no statistical data to back this, anecdotal evidence tells me that the recession has many young workers moving back in with parents.  Many students recently graduated college with the promise of a hot job market, only to find things frigid in employment land.

Others may be freshly laid off and in need of a place to land until they get back on their feet.  Either way, it can be a tough time for both parents and their grown kids.  Here are a few ideas for smoothing the transition.

Have an end game in mind.  When kids move back home with parents it is a good idea to establish a time line up front – if not for moving out, at least a time to reevaluate things.  This way parents do not get the idea this is a permanent arrangement, and kids are not worried about getting kicked out next week.

Sit down with her and help develop a budget. Make room in the budget for saving money towards a down payment for another home, or the first month’s rent for an apartment. Unless kids have absolutely zero income, let them participate in at least some of the household expenses.  Ask them to pick up groceries a couple times a month, or pay the telephone bill, etc.  This will actually help them budget their earnings by reminding them that these are expenses they will again encounter when living on their own.  Simply blowing entire paychecks is not an option.

If their budget has room, charge rent.  Charging rent to adult children is a controversial topic.  There is no right or wrong answer here, and much of it is situational.  If my kids wanted to return home just to save money, I would probably ask for some help with the mortgage.  If they just went through a divorce, or were let go from a job, or some similar financially devastating experience, I would probably allow more time to get established before asking for rent money.

Some people will argue now is the time for tough love.  They will advise against taking kids back in, and forcing them to fend for themselves.  I guess something could be said for that, but I am a big softy.  If my kids came to me with a big financial mess, and needed a place to temporarily land while they straightened things out, there is no way I could refuse.  Of course, my feeling are somewhat contingent upon their work effort.  If I know they are busting their butt to make things right I could support them fully.  If they wanted to lay around in their room and play Xbox 360, well, that would be a different story!

When and if I did start collecting the rent money, and if I could afford it, I would put the money, or a portion of the money, in a separate account.  I would then return the rent money collected to my child in the form of down payment assistance, or towards a furniture fund when they were ready to move out again.

Agree to a transition period.  It might be difficult to jump from mom and dad’s house back into the real world without some assistance, at least initially.  If you offer financial assistance to get kids back out of the house, again it is a good idea to have an end game in mind.  Let them know up front that you can help them the first three months they are in their apartment, but at the end of that time they need to be earning enough to support themselves.  After all, you have your own retirement to save for, and can only help for so long.

Comments

  1. I watched an American News program a few months ago (I am in Canada) and they did a story about how kids are boomerang-ing back to their parents homes, but in the cases of the families they presented, because the PARENTS needed the extra help. The parents were struggling with loss of income, decreased investments or increasing house payments and were near to retirement but now unsure if they would be able to support themselves. Their adult children moved home to help out financially and in a few cases, the parents moved into the adult children’s homes.

  2. Thanks for this great post! I agree that a key should be an effort made by the children to help out at home — and even pay a modest rent to help cover the cost of utilities and groceries.

  3. While I appreciate the cultural jitters around this situation, I don’t really understand them. Why is it the norm in our culture for each generation in a family to separate? Maybe the concern is that someone is going to freeload or remain infantilized. And it’s certainly the case that our culture infantilizes adolescents, giving them little respect as the adults they are becoming and almost nothing in the way of meaningful work that encourages them to contribute to their communities or homes.

    All adults in a household should contribute to it, and almost all of them can. Adult children living in their parents’ homes should absolutely contribute cash if they have it towards the mortgage, the utilities, whatever. If they have no paid work, then there is always the important and valuable but unpaid and culturally scorned work of the household to do. Our culture’s view of unpaid work such as cooking, cleaning, laundry, errands, and yardwork doesn’t mean that that work is unimportant to the happiness and well being of the people in the household.

    Culture is a powerful thing. But there is no reason that many families couldn’t buck the trend and band together in hard times to improve *everyone’s* situation. The parents themselves may have a hard time making ends meet otherwise. And yes, I’m fully aware that some people have every legitimate reason to steer clear of their families. But most of us could cooperate and coexist if we were so motivated. It’s a real option for many.

  4. We are called “boomerang kids”

    My parents had me help pay for groceries. Here’s a tip for parents: if you charge rent it is technically income, and should be reported. If the child helps you pay for groceries, it isn’t.

  5. @Kate, I agree it is cultural. I’m from India and here, nobody thinks twice about moving back with their parents if they are in distress. In fact, most of the parents stay with their childrens family or stay very close to them. Parents too don’t think it is un natural for the kids to move back in. After all, if they don’t help their own kids, who will?

    - Prasanth

  6. Interesting post. I think the key point that you mentioned is whether the child is being lazy and just living at home to sponge off his parents. That is very different then a person who has a job and can’t afford to live in his own place. Either way, I agree with the first commenter who said there are plenty of things the child (young adult) could be doing around the household to contribute – cooking, cleaning, fixing things, etc. It might even be a win-win situation.

  7. I have to comment -
    Two of my siblings moved back in with my parents after they graduated college. The older one paid rent; the younger one did not. The reason for having the older one pay rent was so that he wasn’t “freeloading” off my parents. However, my mother later realized that that decision made it take longer for him to get on his own feet. My sister was not required to pay rent, and I have to think that’s the better decision.

  8. As a college grad who lives at home, I would have to say that all of these things are entirely situational, but I do agree with you that boundaries have to be made and stuck to: I’m getting married in June, so we have a definite end date; I milk the cows and do farm chores a couple times a week when my dad works late, so my parents don’t feel any need to charge me rent or other utilities; and…I’m daddy’s little girl! Always have been, so anything goes (but I’m not out to take advantage of my parents in any way). And it helps that they know my fiancee is starting graduate school which will pay him more than I’ll make and provide insurance…

    But I must agree that multi-generational housing might make a comeback. I would argue that it should: my parents are taking good care of me now; Jay and I plan to provide housing on our own property and dime in the future for them. All across the world, it’s impossible to make it on your own right away, between sky high housing costs and low-paying starter jobs. Sure this is America, but even we need to help each other sometimes.

  9. I was caught in the recession of late 2001-2002 having graduated in Spring of 2002. It was a tough job market, but I was lucky enough to find a decent job. It’s a good thing too because unlike many of the other people here, I was going to move in with a friend or some strangers before going back to my parent’s house. We just do not get along and pretty much rarely ever have. Moving back in was not an option as they also had the gall to move to another house before I even finished college. (I was living in the dorms during my last year at school.) Not to save on money, mind you, but just because they wanted a nicer house — which for some strange reason had fewer rooms (and was more expensive — a better part of town I think). It’s a good thing I am resourceful and quite independent, and I’ve made it just fine since then and still have a stable job even in this current recession.

    Sometimes “boomerang-ing” isn’t an option.

  10. I came back and lived at home with my parents after graduation. There was no point in my living on my own, paying rent, when my parents had no issues having me back.

    I helped out around the house and wasn’t the lazy one who let their parents do their laundry and pay for their food.

    It worked out great as I was able to get a jump start on paying back my student loans. I don’t really understand what all the fuss is about with moving back in with your parents.

    My parents still say they miss having me around.

    Stupidly Yours,

    Matt

  11. I think there’s a world of difference between moving in with your parents upon graduating college (which I did and my husband did, and pretty everyone we knew did back in the early 1990s) and moving in with your parents with a kid or two and a spouse a decade-plus later.

    We lived with my in-laws for a few months when we were between houses. It was extremely hard on all of us, and we weren’t in any sort of financial straights.

    Some takeaways from our experience:

    Prior to moving in, have a frank discussion about expectations. Throughout the duration of your stay, keep a dialogue going about what’s working and what isn’t. (e.g., Where will you be staying? How private is that space? Can you have guest over? Remember, it’s not your house.)

    If kids are involved, it’s critical to give them some sort of understanding of what the house rules are vs. mom and dad’s rules and which are in effect when.

    Do not expect the grandparents to babysit or provide childcare unless they offer. Presumably, they’ve already made many changes to accommodate you’re being there. Don’t expect free babysitting out of the deal.

    Pitching in, cleaning up, cooking, doing some of the shopping goes a long way in keeping things harmonious and tolerable. It’s possible to contribute to the household in many nonmonetary ways.

  12. My mother allowed me to move in and out of her home while I was younger, which gave me the confidence to explore my options at the time. I was responsible for a portion of the bills and I worked a full-time job while going to college. Had it not been for her generosity I may have never had the courage to go to school for fear of not having the money to do so.

    I think it is important though that parents don’t allow their children to walk all over them and I think this article makes that point well. Good job!

  13. Oops, I read the original post way too fast and didn’t realize it was mainly about recent college grads.

    My recommendations stand, but Jason, feel free to delete if you think it’s too off-topic.

  14. This is indeed a tough topic, and recent US census data support your suspicions. We’ve got a web site and eBook that help families figure out the best ways to deal with adult children moving home. (http://www.adultchildrenlivingathome.com)

    As you’ve indicated, it’s all about having clear expectations and boundaries, and maintaining *excellent* communication.

  15. I think paying rent (or assisting with groceries, or doing work around the house) is a great idea. Moving back in with my parents just wasn’t an option for me (our house was too small, and some adopted kids moved into my room) but when I was going through a difficult post-graduation period my parents helped me pay my rent or buy groceries when I needed it.

    I think the biggest problem is that for many people, the last time they lived at home they were teenagers, and it’s difficult to maintain your independent adult life when you move back in under those parameters. The one summer I lived at home during college, my parents tried to give me a 10pm curfew. It took some delicate negotiations to establish that I did not, in fact, need a curfew because I was an adult. I was 21 and able to take care of myself.

  16. I moved back home after college for a year and can speak from personal experience. I also know others who did that as well. Personally I think it was the smart move and more kids should think about it. I did lose basically a year of having a full social life, but in ways it was worth it. It helped me save a lot of money and had the experience of my parents there when I had questions and how to set things like bills, taxes, etc. helped me set up a savings account and save for pricy items I wanted. I never had a deadline, nor think parents should set one.

    I was fortunate, and my parents had no problem having me live at home because they wanted me to save money as much as possible, and that was more important than having an empty house.

  17. I think it’s a smart move to stay home until you can afford and be responsible enough to live on your own. After college I moved back home and I am currently saving for my first purchase (a home of my own). My goal is to save about $20K before I think about moving out the house.

  18. We could possibly be on the other end of the spectrum. Parents moving in with us. It would be an adjustment to say the least. We had planned on it for their later years to avoid nursing home or assisted living type arrangements, due to this economy and some choices that they have made, it could render them living with us sooner than anticipated With that said, we have the room, and I would ask them to contribute financially for extra food, and utilities. Rent? possibly,I am not so sure about that. I would expect them to pitch in with chores and maintenance, it would be the only way it would work.

  19. I too am from India and as Prasanth said above, it’s a norm here to live with your parents. We are rasied in a culture which doesn’t typically allow us to leave the parents on their own in the old age. I think it’s fantastic idea. Think of it this way – your parents take care of you for first 18-20 years of your life. They don’t ask you for rent, grocery money or help with any bills. So, you are simply returning the favor by doing the same thing for them. Have them move in with you once they retire. Parents will help out with cooking, cleaning, baby-sitting. Kids will enjoy their company and will learn something from them. After parents, you will get their estate! ( Although, this should not be the primary motive) A little bit of compromise can save a lot to everybody , especially to the environment. Nothing wrong with that!

    But again, I have been living in the US for several years and I can see how most of the people will find this awkward.

  20. I don’t see a problem with adult children TEMPORARILY Moving home, however, I really think they need to financially contribute to the household in some way. Otherwise all you are doing is setting them up for failure later as they think they can rely on your support.

  21. I moved home after college (BA degree) and stayed there for two years. After about a year and a half, I paid rent to my parents. In that time I paid off the larger of my two college loans, and got a good start on the other one (which was paid off within six months of moving out on my own).

    This makes me jealous of my little sister, who is still living at home (age 23; she went away to college for one year, came home and got a one-year degree from a community college) and doesn’t pay rent.

    My two brothers fall in line closer to my situation; although my younger brother didn’t graduate. We all three moved home within four months of each other (which meant my parents went from having just their baby at home–she’s a bit younger than the rest of us) to having their three grown kids home. All three moved out within three months of each other.

    It worked well for us, but if I had the chance to do it again, I would’ve saved even more money when I still lived at home and had very little expenses, but living at home and moving out when I did worked well.

    We all had to help out around the house. Since none of us were trouble-makers, there were not real special rules that made life as an adult at home more difficult.

  22. Another option is to have the parents collect rent but put it aside in a savings account. This forces savings, minimizes mindless spending, and when the child is ready to move out again they have a nice cushion of cash to start over with.

  23. I like what FD is saying about all of this– but it seems he’s talking about kids moving back home because of difficult circumstances. I’m a parent of teenagers, and I do not and will not ever consider “I want to save more money for a house” a difficult circumstance. (Yeah, and I want to save more paying down my mortgage faster. Life’s tough all over, bub.)

    Of course it’s cheaper living with your parents– they’re footing the vast majority of the bills. Of course you can save more money faster — you aren’t responsible for your upkeep.

    But I’ve told my teens that when they move out, they will be declaring themselves independent human beings — which has been my goal for them all along. If they choose to come back, they will be treated as independent human beings who have to pay rent for their residence, just like the rest of us. And if they’ve made poor choices then we will work together to sort those out. If they are not working on the problems, Dad and I won’t be the solution. And by the way, if you’re living in a home, running a vacuum in a common area is definitely your responsibility, no matter who’s paying the mortgage.

    In Money magazine this month, The Money Shrink spoke of increasing incentives to move out, with co-responsibilities such as matching earnings 50 cents on the dollar, offering to pay the apartment deposit in 3 months (but only half of it in 6 months). Because young adults are still adults.

    After college, it’s time to act like one.

  24. My husband and I are moving back in with my mom, this week(we are both 23). We both have ok jobs. We have so much debt that we just can’t stay afoat. We are gonna move in with my parents chip in for the light and water. Buy our food, pay off our debt, get some money in the bank and move out. My parent have a 5 bedroom 3 bath house, and they have to pay the house note, light, water, and cable if we are there or not so they dont care. We make enough money to make it if we did not have to make payments on everything. We have a shot right to make a good step in the right dorection. My 21 year old brother is at home working and going to college, my sister is moving home too…with baby #2. We are no trouble…at least we have a job…and no baby. I know it sucks moving home but at least we can get started in the correct direction (like my mom told me to do in the 1st place…teenagers). :-) Do what you have to do and get out, thats what she tells all of us.

  25. I’m researching a story on people moving back home with their parents for economic reasons. Would love to chat with anyone who has done this, or knows someone who has. My email is mk1@cbsnews.com

    Please email me if you feel like it! thanks!

  26. I am the parent of a semi grad student.He must finish his intern but unfortunately, the “career” he choose, is in turmoil (mining). He has moved back home, and I must say, I had not made “rules” prior to this (it has now been 4 months). I figured I didn’t need to – he’s 26. Now, I have 2 men in the home, and my “significant” other of 20 years,walked away TODAY. So, this economic crisis has not just hit the pocketbook,it has really damaged relationships.I am so sad for these young adults today.There was never a “book” on this….

  27. I think that children should contribute to the family by working and giving financially and if they are in-between jobs they should help with the chores. I have my own flat near my parents, but lived at home till I was in my thirties. My parents furnished my flat and still help me out (probably too much for my age. I admire the Indian culture and their closeness of family ties though. Some westerners aren’t close to their families, also some parents are cruel in that they just want their kids out regardless of whether they’ve got a child or not and don’t care about the childs, or grandchilds future, I would find this impossible to forgive. I have discussed this with friends, and my friend (who is in his forties) still lives happily with his mum. I asked his opinion on why some children live happily at their parents long after they are adults and some don’t and he said that it depends on what the relationship was like originally and maybe they go back and find that nothing’s changed. I moved out because me and my mum clash temprementally, although we are good friends and see each other often (and also at my age I needed my own space). My parents never ‘ordered’ me to get out like some do, it was a joint decision. My friend said we are lucky to have families like we do.

  28. My daughter and her 3 grown children plus my daughter’s boyfriend moved in 2005. They never kept jobs for long and were very lazy around the house. The basement was wall to wall trash. I complained to no avail. Finally I got her to move a couple of months ago and she resents me for it. She is having major money problems and may become homeless in a couple of months. Hopefully, there will be some charitable organization to help. I just couldn’t take all the noise, uncleanliness and I could not even sit in the living room.

    Sometimes even when a child has financial problems, it just isn’t a good idea to let them move in.

    Thanks,

  29. My brother, almost 51 years old, moved into my parents home after his divorce around 12 years ago. Now his adult son and his 2 babies he had with a girlfriend are living there also. Both my brother and his son work but constribute nothing (no chores and no money for rent or groceries). My parents babysit a lot with no pay. My parents are in their mid 80′s and Dad has beginning dementia. They don’t have a lot of money but I stopped sending them money becasue they just give it to my brother and his son. I don’t feel good about this situation. I don’t know what is going to happen to them when my parents pass away.

  30. There’s nothing amiss about adult children moving home with their parents for legitimate reasons. It has to be controlled though. Not working for extended periods, not providing their own needs such as groceries, toiletries, car and expenses, etc. should not be tolerated.

  31. I am in a cituation where my wife has had a serious operation from which she is doing very well and is expected to recover very quickly. She has 2 daughters that absolutely hate me. I call it “stepites”. they are both in their late 40′s. the problem is they want to move in to care for their mom which is not an unusual request however they both have developed an attitude that this is going to be and the will disrespect me if they want to. I am a strong willed man and I will not be disrespected in my home so Now you know my stance. Can anyone advise me.

  32. Finances are not the issue- we have a large paid off house, I have a good retirement pension and savings. However, my daughter who moved home after college had an unpaid internship(only because I pushed and pushed her- but I did not do any of the work) for a year but then nothing came of it. Because I pushed her she found a very p/t job- a few nights a month and volunteers 6 hours a week(because that is what she “wants” to do). I cannot get her to get off her butt to do anything more- unless she is “interested” in it. She has applied to graduate school but it does not look good- 2 denials already. I am waiting to hear(within 2 weeks I think) about her getting in or not. I guess the next step (which should have been the first) is setting a timeline for work -as I get angrier every day seeing her watch TV and playing on her computer

  33. My older brother is back home with my 80 something parents! He has never held a job for long in the past! He now has a job at a local Walmart. He is an alcoholic that refuses to go to AA, doesn’t take his meds for blood clots. Ended up in the hospital with no health insurance for 4 nights! We invited my parents over for dinner and mom said if the brother wasn’t invited her and my dad were not coming! Since when does an invite include a brother of 53? I am so upset by this! My mom babies him, takes care of him, yet he can not do anything for anyone! If they get sick, he can’t even drive them to doctor (he has had 11 DUI’s,) been in and out of rehab. My dad wants him out, but mother feels guilty! It is ruining the relationship with myself and my two sister’s and their husbands! My one sister took care of him for over 8 years, and fianlly couldn’t take it any more!
    He can’t even mow the lawn, my 85 year old dad does it! I can’t take it anymore! He is making my parents loose out on their Golden years! They can’t travle because they can’t leave him home alone, when they visit my sister’s they take him along! My sister’s want to visit with my parents, not the brother no one can stand! Help….any ideas!

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