Whether it’s a temporary arrangement or indefinite, if you’re planning to move back in with Mom and Dad, good communication is key. Here’s how to talk about your living arrangements before you move home.
When I was 25, I returned home to visit my parents after four years of traveling and working abroad. My goal was to get my college education back on track, but my university didn’t have a spot for me until six months later. I was flat broke, and the obvious way to cut costs was to live with my parents during the interim.
I don’t remember much of the discussion—just that suddenly I was roosting full-time in my childhood bedroom after seven years of independent living. I had become the quintessential boomerang child. Except it was 1989, and no one else was doing it.
These days, it’s common for young adults to be moving home after college or other life event to find financial footing and figure out what’s next. According to a 2015 Pew Research Center study, about 26 percent of Millennials (ages 18 to 34) are living at home, up 4 percent since 2007. And more young women are living at home, at numbers not seen since 1940. Reasons for moving home abound, from later marriage norms to high housing costs to burdensome student debt.
Done right, moving home after college can be a great solution for all involved. With the economy still recovering, the high cost of living in urban areas (where good jobs tend to be), and the stiff competition for the jobs themselves, multi-generation living makes perfect sense.
That said, collaborate on some ground rules. Don’t be offended if your parents want you to assume some financial responsibility and chores around the house. They need to be saving for their retirement, so you’re not on the hook down the road.
Also, keep in mind it’s their house, and while they might welcome your presence, they’ve gotten used to not having arguments about who’s taking out the garbage. And yeah, they might treat you like a kid because you’re their kid—but if you don’t act like one, they’ll soon enough treat you like a Grownup.
If your parents are easygoing, you might not need to clarify agreements in writing, but if they like to get into your business, it’s worth mapping out a contract that everyone signs. It’ll remind them you’re a responsible Grownup with a right to some freedom and privacy.
Here are a few guidelines:
Arrive with an exit strategy. I knew to the day when I’d be moving out because winter semester started just after New Year’s. If you’re home to job hunt or build a nest egg, your exit date might be harder to predict, but try to come up with a timeline for your stay. It will keep you motivated and moving.
Find work. Maybe you’re hunting for a real job in another city, but make sure you’ve got at least part-time work locally to cover personal and shared household expenses. Full-time work is even better for paying down debt. Side gigs like gardening, housesitting, or driving for a ride-sharing service can boost income if you’re home just short term. Take advantage of local resources for resume writing, interview skills, and networking.
Tidy up. I’ve lived with some seriously slovenly housemates. They didn’t expect me to clean, but nor did they do any cleaning themselves. Don’t do this to your parents. Pick up your wet towel, mow the lawn, load the dishwasher (and turn it on!), and run the vacuum without being asked. Your parents will be easy to please.
Discuss what you’ll pay for. Are you still on your parents’ health or car insurance policy? Do they pay your cell phone bill? If you’ve moved home to pay down student debt or save for first/last/security on an apartment, your parents may want to cover bills, health insurance, and groceries to help you out. But every expense they pay for is money not going toward their retirement. Hash out what you should cover and what’s reasonable for them to handle. If you know they live close to the bone, encourage them to look at their finances for themselves. Some Boomers have no idea how they’re going to handle retirement, and helping you too much isn’t good for them.
Learn to budget. You’re home to move on, right? According to a national poll commissioned by the American Institute of CPAs and the Ad Council, 78 percent of Millennials get sucked into their friends’ spending habits. Avoid that trap. Take a class on financial management, work on boosting your credit score and managing credit wisely, and beef up your budget skills. Your parents may or may not be the best source for advice.
Talk about house rules. Grownups need a life, but sometimes parents think it’s their prerogative to know where their kids are at all times. The old adage of “Not under my roof” runs thick in some houses. After independent living, this attitude can feel intrusive. Do your parents expect you to be home by a certain time? Do they object to adult visitors? Talking it out is key for harmonious living. Be as specific as you need to be.
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While Society of Grownups hopes the information is useful, it’s only intended to provide general education. It’s not legal, tax, or investment advice, and may not apply or be useful to your specific financial situation. If you need recommendations geared to your personal financial situation, schedule time with a financial planner.