Boomerang – When Adult Children Come Home

Ray’s Take: A changing economy, a sluggish job market and student loan debt have created a perfect storm for delaying the empty nest parents have expected, and had, in the past. According to a recent Census Bureau report, 30 percent of young adults ages 18 to 34 live with their parents. That’s a big number, and the trend is driven in part by unemployment or underemployment of millennials.

If this happens at your house, there are a lot of things to consider because caring for adult children for longer than expected, with no exit plan in sight, could easily lead to emotional and financial chaos. Some questions should be answered at the beginning: How long are they staying? What are the expectations? Do we charge rent? What stuff do we still pay for? And how do we navigate all this?

Clear communication is key. Get as much as possible on the table up front to minimize frustrations and clarify expectations and boundaries. Adult children need to understand that when they move back home, it increases their parents’ cost of living and it impacts their lives and finances.

Have an exit strategy for when the adult child will move out once they locate a job. Immediately? Once a specific amount of money has been saved? How can you monitor that a reasonable percentage of earnings is saved?

Decide if you will provide cash for the needs of your adult child, how much and for how long. It can lead to problems if you are resentful of paying for cellphone bills and your adult child is spending evenings out with friends funded by you.

Write all the parameters down and revisit them within an agreed-upon timeframe to see if everything is still on track and working for all parties. Don’t leave an open invitation on the table that confuses everyone involved. A well-thought-out plan can save a lot of headaches (and heartaches) before they happen. Always remember that the best gift you can ever give your children is to protect your own independence.

Dana’s Take: The phenomenon of boomerang kids returning home isn’t easy for parents. Finances can be tight as we save for retirement, and the added expense of taking care of adult children can sabotage plans. Then there’s the other part: Who takes out the trash? Am I back to doing everyone’s laundry and putting dinner on the table every night?

When you fly, flight attendants instruct you to put on your own oxygen mask first. That’s because it’s difficult to help others if you’re unconscious. The same is true financially and emotionally. Parents should take care not to let their desire to love and nurture their children irreparably damage their own financial and mental well-being.

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