According to a Gallup poll of 3,445 people, conducted between Aug – Dec 31, 2013, roughly 14% of adults between the ages of 24-34 are still living at home with their parents. That number rises to 51% for adults between the ages of 18-23.
There’s nothing wrong with living at home with one’s parents. Who wouldn’t want free rent, free food, free laundry, free cable, free internet, and maybe even a free pool and outdoor hot tub great for partying with friends, depending on how rich one’s parents are.
With the high cost of housing in major metro areas around the country, coupled with a competitive labor market, living at home makes tremendous financial sense.
A TALE OF TWO COLLEGE GRADUATES
One 30-year-old male I know named Jacob, set out to be an independent man after graduating from UC Berkeley in 2007. He told me years ago, “Sam, there’s no way in hell I would ever go back home to live with my parents after four years of freedom in college. It would feel like I was going backwards, you know? I want to live for today!”
However, when I spoke to him the other week, his tune had changed. Jacob now laments how all he can afford is a less-than-desirable $2,800 one bedroom in a borderline area of San Francisco with his underemployed bride. Combined, they make a very respectable $120,000 a year before taxes. After he maxes out his 401k and pays taxes, they are left with only ~$70,000 a year, or $5,833 a month to pay for rent and everything else.
Even if they ate no food, never turned on the heater, gave up all material items, and skipped all vacations, they would still have to save for seven years to come up with a 20% down payment on a median priced home in San Francisco. Who knows what prices will be seven years from now? Based on the long-term trend, a safe bet is prices will be higher. It’s hard to see Jacob and his wife getting farther ahead without a big career break.
Now take Rachel, a 30-year-old female who also graduated from UC Berkeley. Not only did she live at home her final two years of college to save her parents money, she lived at home for eight years after college as well. Although it takes her 45 minutes each way to go from the East Bay to downtown San Francisco, she’s been able to save $30,000 a year after-tax by not having to pay for rent, utilities, and frequent meals. Furthermore, Rachel also has over $120,000 in her 401k.
Armed with roughly $200,000 in savings, Rachel and her husband plan to buy a picturesque 1,800 square foot, 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom home overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Golden Gate Heights, San Francisco for $1.35 million. Their combined after-tax income is roughly $100,000 a year, so they should have no problem affording a $4,000 a month mortgage payment after putting down $350,000.
Many of Jacob and Rachel’s friends have strong incomes thanks to the robust Bay Area economy. What many of Jacob and Rachel’s friends don’t have is the down payment.
We’ve just witnessed how staying at home allows adult children to supercharge their savings and get ahead in life at a later age. Let’s now talk about when it’s time to cut ties.
1) When it’s clear your child isn’t getting anywhere at work. The biggest risk with allowing an adult child to live at home is killing off their motivation to become independent human beings. It’s understandable to lose motivation when everything is handed to you. There’s no need to get into work early, or leave late, to jockey for that raise or promotion if you don’t have a monthly rent payment coming due. After several years of switching jobs or getting nowhere at work, it should become clear that living at home is a detriment.
2) When your child’s bank account does not increase by at least the monthly rent cost of a room or an apartment s/he would have rented. If Big Bobby was going to slum it with four roommates for $1,000 a month in the Mission, then Big Bobby better show at least a $1,000 increase in monthly savings. It’s important for you to check your child’s financial accounts every month to see if there’s progress. If there is no progress, your child is simply taking advantage of you.
3) When your child hasn’t offered to mow the lawn, do the dishes, clean the house, or run errands in over a month. If your adult child still is acting like a dependent adolescent child, then it’s important to have a serious talk about making sure they contribute to the household. Give them a three-month timeline to shape up before you force them out. Scare them silly by printing out the latest rental listings in order for them to see how much they would have to spend for so little.
4) When you start noticing his or her friends come over more frequently. A motivated adult should be out there networking, working hard, and hustling to try and break free from the nest. If you find his or her friends constantly coming over and doing who knows what in their rooms all day, your child is getting way too comfortable for his or her own good. There should be an opposite mindset where your child should protect your house from guests at all costs because s/he wants to impose the least amount of burden possible.
5) When they’ve hit 32 years old. Love is tough, but if your child is 32 years old and still living at home, it’s time to go. 14 years after becoming an adult, and 10 years after the average person graduates from college is more than enough time to find out what they want to do with their life. 10-14 years is also enough time to save enough money to live independently. Allowing adult children to stay beyond age 32 does them no favors.
THEY’RE ONLY A PHONE CALL AWAY
Baby turtles have to break through a hard shell, climb through mounds of sand, and then waddle into the ferocious sea without knowing how to swim. Many of them die en route, but for those that live, they become majestic creatures that may live for over 100 years.
Even if you kick your adult children out of the house, know that they are just a phone call away. They may never forgive you for no longer doing their laundry, but deep down inside, you know it’s for their own good. One day, they’ll call you out of the blue and thank you for your all your support and courage!
Parents, when do you think is the right time to kick your kids out of the basement? Are there any adult children out there still living at home? What are some benefits and negatives of living at home? Isn’t social life a little awkward if your house isn’t too big?
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