Are Parents Hurting Returning Adult Children?

One of the big stories for Generation Y is the number of adults who are returning to their parent’s homes after graduation from college, moving back into their old rooms, and then just staying.  It is certainly true that the job market has not been good for the last several years.  It is also true that this generation probably feels somewhat disenfranchised by their prospects.  After all, they were told since birth that all they had to do was get a good education and the world would be waiting for their skills and abilities.  No one told them that just because they had a degree in environmental science or anthropology there would not be a six figure job waiting for them in their field when they graduated.

In some cases, adult children are moving back at the urging of their parents.  Probably one of the most difficult things to watch is for someone you care about to suffer.  It is even more disheartening to see someone suffer as a result of their own bad choices.  It is much easier to rush out and pay for an apartment than watch someone you love spend the rent money and then be short at the end of the month.  No one wants to see the kind of apartment their kids will get with a job delivering pizzas or working as a waiter in a midscale restaurant.  But the fact is, these are the types of experience that make children turn into adults and become capable of taking on the world.

It is also ridiculous watching the first time home buyers on the Home and Garden channel.  They talk about finding a home with their “sense of style.”  They worry that the appliances in the kitchen aren’t stainless steel, or that the floors aren’t tiled.  They obviously want to move into the same sort of home that they grew up in as their first home.  The home that their parents bought after working for years and numerous apartments.  Maybe the dream home they built after living in a small, 1000 square foot home for ten years while they saved and advanced in their careers.

Instead of letting their adult offspring (let’s stop calling them children – they’re in their 20’s) take a starter job and move into a low rent apartment with a few roommates, parents are swooping in and bringing their brood home.  Those that are working are working minimal hours as they wait for their dream job to come to them.  Without expenses such as rent, food, gasoline, car insurance, and clothing (or even paying for their cell phones), they are spending all of their earnings from whatever work they do as they wish.  This would seem like an idea arrangement to the immature adult – no responsibilities and few constraints.

Now there is nothing fundamentally wrong several generations living in the same house. This is done in Asian communities where homes are too expensive to purchase.  Plus, the multigenerational family unit has many advantages including close ties, child care, and elder care.  But in these types of homes, everyone is contributing fully whatever they can to pay expenses and provide for each other.  In the new American households adult offspring are being allowed to live as perpetual teenagers with few responsibilities.

While it may seem like the parents are protecting their children, this is not healthy.  The young adults are not gaining the valuable work experience they need.  They are not developing the strength and work ethic they need to survive on their own.  They are not seeing the need to advance and make something of their lives because they are perfectly comfortable sitting on the bottom rung of the ladder, and perhaps jumping from ladder to ladder without ever making any progress.

Parents should start making the nest less and less comfortable.  Rent should be required.  Work to help maintain and clean the house should be expected.  Sharing in the cost of food and helping with meal preparation and clean-up should be the norm (in fact, teaching young adults to cook will give them a substantial financial advantage).  Having boy or girlfriends over in private should not be permitted or one will end up with three extra mouths under the roof instead of just one.  Get them to the point where they see no advantage to staying at home because they could get the same lifestyle for less elsewhere and they would be able to set their own rules.

If you are able you could help them on their way.  You could save their rent payments and provide them as an emergency fund when they move to their own apartment.  You could provide them with a box of needed household items when they leave, and perhaps buy them some pieces of furniture like a table or a bed.

One they have gotten a firm footing, you could also start providing them with some of their inheritance early through annual gifts, but only if they have shown that they have learned how to handle money and it would be a blessing for them rather than a curse that prevents them from making their own way.  Perhaps the gifts could go to become a large down-payment on a house when they are ready to buy or the start of a college fund so that their kids will not have student loans.

By allowing them to stay at home, living the teenage life without even the expectation of attending school, you are hurting your adult offspring.  They are missing out on the valuable life experiences.  They will start their lives late, and this will affect their entire lives.  It is never easy to let go, but your children deserve high expectations.

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Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to give financial planning or tax advice.  It gives general information on investment strategy, picking stocks, and generally managing money to build wealth. It is not a solicitation to buy or sell stocks or any security. Financial planning advice should be sought from a certified financial planner, which the author is not. Tax advice should be sought from a CPA.  All investments involve risk and the reader as urged to consider risks carefully and seek the advice of experts if needed before investing.

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