Boomerang Kids: When Kids Move Back Home

BoomerangKidsA recent survey by the Pew Research Center finds that 13% of parents with grown children say one of their adult sons or daughters has moved back home in the past year. There’s even a term for this:  Boomerang Kids.  You watch them fly away into the big world beyond, and then they come right back home.  This recession has produced a bumper crop.

Nowadays, you have to be prepared to have them move back home after college. “Good parents” will keep the door open to help children in need at any time during their lifetimes. Is the opposite true? Do “bad parents” produce self-reliant children? Or is there a happy medium, where children learn financial values?

Erma Bombeck famously wrote: “I take a very practical view of raising children. I put a sign in each of their rooms: Checkout Time is 18 years.

Boomerang Kids aren’t an uncommon occurrence – one survey revealed that as many as 85% of graduating college students eventually move back home.  It starts with “I just need to move home for the summer,” and then progresses to “I’m trying to save up to move out.”  One recent grad revealed that “My parents have been really supportive so if they ask me to do something like wash the dishes I feel like it’s reasonable.”

I’m so happy that she finds it reasonable.

So how do you help your kids get out of the house and on their own?

  1. Teach them the value of money, and the importance of saving before they reach adulthood.  By the time they’re 22 years old, they can have a substantial “emergency fund” that they’ve been saving up since they were tweens.  We call this our 401k Kid account.  If they need it, they’ve got it, rather then moving back home “just for a few months” while they save up the cash they need for a rental deposit on an apartment.
  2. Enforce the same rules and expectations for children living at home, whether they’re 12 or 25.  There are always chores and cleaning to keep up with.  When she’s off in her own apartment, she’ll have these same obligations, why let her off the hook while she’s living at home?  What time was curfew for your 18-year old (adult) kids in high school?  There’s no reason to enforce a different curfew now.  She knows the rules and expectations well from her childhood, and there’s no sense in changing them all now.
  3. Cut off the money hose.  No more “allowance” for college grads living at home.  Financial advisers say hosting an adult age child back at home can cost between $8,000 a year to $18,000 a year, depending on how much parents are shelling out for extras like travel and entertainment.
  4. Consider drafting a contract outlining the rules and obligations, and potentially the rent due for the duration of the stay.  The biggest mistake most parents in this situation make is not setting a time limit on the new housing arrangement.  And about the rent — it need not be “market value” for a one-bedroom apartment, but rather a token amount – a recognition that the game has gone into overtime, and the clock is ticking.  If you’re feeling particularly generous, you could save up all of her rent payments, and give it to her as a nice gift when she does finally move out – all of the rent she’s paid you over the previous six to 12 months.

In short, you’re running a home, not an all-inclusive resort.  Set your kids up for success at an early age, then act as a safety net – albeit a less-than-comfortable one.  You have to believe that she’d be a lot happier living on her own, supporting herself – so you owe it to her to give her ample incentive to find a way to make it work.

For both your sakes.

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