“The Boomerang Generation.” That’s what they call young adults who move back home after they graduate college. And according to several financial experts, parents, and the graduates themselves, it can be a stressful time. I should know because I am stressed. My oldest son, Case, will be moving home on Tuesday. And while I am so excited to have him home, it has really got me thinking about some of the uncomfortable conversations we are bound to have after he’s been on his own for four years.
In the United States today, 36% of young adults ages 18-31 are living with their parents. “Failure to launch” has become somewhat of an epidemic for young adults in our country. My post about the “quarter-life crisis” explains how graduates are feeling the pressure to find a job, make money, and be successful, but by no means should this be an excuse to stay on the family payroll for an extended period of time. After talking to other parents and graduates and reading books and blog posts, I have come up with what I think is a reasonable set of expectations for a college graduate to abide by if they move home after college.
1. A Full Time Job ~ Making sure your son or daughter is working…. somewhere….. seems to be the overall consensus when it comes to a child returning to the nest after college. A graduated son or daughter should be expected to work full time or spend those hours looking for a full time job. The lazy days of being on summer break are over and while my heart sort of breaks a little with the fact that my son is no longer in school, the goal is to get him earning a paycheck and off the family payroll. By creating a loving but “uncomfortable” home environment, my son won’t lose the motivation to set out on his own and become the independent man he’s meant to be.
2. A Budget ~ Young adults need to learn that creating and living on a budget tells every dollar where to go. It’s important to sit down, agree on a budget, and hold them to it. While they live under your roof, rent free, they are accountable to you for their time and money. One mom I talked to expected her son to take over his car insurance and cell phone payments if he moved back home. I think that’s very wise and a step in the right direction towards understanding real world demands once he’s on his own. Being generous is one thing, but I would be a bad parent if I did not hold my child accountable to living fiscally responsibly. *Parents, your adult offspring’s circumstances and desire to live at home should not dictate your budget!
3. Chores ~ The verdict is in. Parent’s and financial advisors agree that if adult kids are going to live at home they need to help out around the house. And a full time job is not an excuse for escaping the little things that help out like taking out the trash, feeding a pet, or doing laundry. Agreed upon chores, maintenance, and overall cleanliness is appropriate, and as Dave Ramsey says, “When they see that they won’t be living on Mom-and-Dad-will-take-care-of-me-for-as-long-as-I-want Boulevard, they will be itching to get a job so they can get back to living on their own terms.”
4. A Curfew ~ This expectation is a little tricky considering the college grad has enjoyed ultimate freedom for the last four years. I’m sure the hours he has kept and night moves he’s made would prompt me to stick my fingers in my ears and sing Jingle Bells. But the fact remains that my home is not a dorm or frat house, and party animal hours will need to be discussed. Why? Because whoever lives in my house will live by my rules and my value system. This includes coming home at a reasonable hour and no overnight guests of the opposite sex sleeping in his room. (I still have a 12 year old at home!) The beautiful thing about this is if Junior doesn’t like it, he can go live somewhere else, and that’s the goal anyway!
5. A Heads Up on Expectations ~ One thing I believe is so important, that my parents never did, is prepare our kids for what to expect in the future. One mom I talked with remembers her parents constantly reminding her about what to expect if certain things happened. For example, if she were to flunk a semester then any financial support from her parents would be cut off. They also told her they were happy to finance for four years of college but nothing more, so it was up to her to get her education in four years.
The idea of talking to kids about what will happen can also be applied to kids who are moving home from college. I love the fact that one mom actually took the time over Thanksgiving to prepare her son regarding expectations for the following summer. By the time he returned home he already knew what was expected of him, like paying for his own gas, being employed and cleaning up after himself. This alleviated any surprises that may have led to arguments and resentment.
6. An Exit Strategy ~ Having an adult child move home can be a joy but also a burden. After four years, your child is not the only one who has grown, changed and entered into another phase of their lives. Susan Ende, author of “How to Raise Your Adult Children” says, “Boomerang kids aren’t ashamed of how much their parents do for them, because they have a certain sense of entitlement.” Kids have become accustomed to waiting for things to happen as opposed to making things happen. Parents agree that setting a time limit or time frame for how long your child may live with you before he/she should be self sufficient is totally reasonable.
Financial experts agree that a good rule of thumb is not allowing kids to live with parents longer than, say, a year and a half unless there are extenuating circumstances. Whatever the amount of time, everyone agrees this type of boundary motivates your child to get busy creating their future, and it gives parents the opportunity to see a light at the end of a long tunnel.
7. Draw up a contract ~ My kids hold me accountable for every little word I say, so it makes sense to sit down with your son or daughter and draw up a written contract outlining all expectations and have them sign it. If and when an issue comes up, you can refer to the clear expectations outlined in the document. For example, adult kids should be expected to pay for their extras like entertainment, gas, new cars, trips etc. Parents constantly handing over $20 here and $50 there adds up, so set firm limits on what you’re going to help your child with financially and stick to it!
“The Millennials have a very close relationship with their parents; they like living with them, they look to them for advice,” say Dr. Robi Ludwig. “It’s shocking to me to see how parents are enabling some of these young adults to live as permanent adolescents.” Like when children who do have jobs view the money they earn as disposable income — to be used for going out, nice cars, and vacations. I can already sense this frame of mind in my own son and, unfortunately, he is in for a rude awakening when his student loans come due and he needs to pay for his cell phone bill and so forth.
The bottom line is that the rules for grown up kids should be different than when we were rearing them, and it’s my cracked conclusion that this is where a lot of the confusion lies. Parents don’t know how to live with their adult kid any other way than how they did it when their child was younger. Some parents just keep doing everything for their kids due to lack of knowledge and know how. It can be so hard, but the result is a successfully independent adult child who respects and loves themselves as much as they love you!