Millennials, those born after 1982 and between the ages of 18 and 31, are living with mom and dad in record numbers. More than any other adult generation alive today, Millennials have the lowest employment rates, the highest standards for the kind of work they are willing to do, and the greatest job turnover. For many Millennials, moving back in with mom and dad allows them to save money for school, take more time to locate the perfect job, regroup after getting bloodied in the adult world of self-reliance and personal responsibility, or take refuge from a painful emotional experience. Labeled the “boomerang generation,” Millennials are coming home by the millions, and parents are at wit’s end on what to do.
Some personalities complement each other quite well, and having an adult child move back in the house need not always be stressful. On the contrary, having an extra set of adult hands to help with cooking meals, doing lawn care, and running errands can be a blessing. Socially, it is nice having adult conversations with someone besides a spouse around the dinner table or while washing dishes. Some kids naturally appreciate their parents and communicate their affection quite regularly. Unfortunately, many Millennials moving back home are chronologically 25 years old but emotionally still teenagers, and oftentimes the reason they move back into their parents’ home is they are not quite ready for independence. Many desperately want the freedom to make their own lifestyle choices, and it is a bonus when mom and dad financially subsidize those choices. When the reason adult children move back home is because they still need more maturing, it is a good idea to have a plan to ensure they are being equipped to eventually launch successfully back out on their own.
If it looks like one of your kids might be moving back home, here are some things to consider before you start moving their things into the downstairs bedroom:
Charge Rent Even a small rent is a good idea. Some families have established a system where they charge a nominal rent the first month, and then incrementally raise the rent every month until the rent equals 30% of what they could earn if the child applied themselves. This serves as an incentive for the child to find work, any work. Some families save this rent and give it back to the child when they finally launch. Other parents use their child’s rent as repayment for their college financing or to provide additional funds for their own retirement. The point here is to equip the child with the skills necessary to pay for their own room and board.
Assign Chores Unless you enjoy running a charity bed and breakfast, your adult child should pitch in to complete household chores like mowing the lawn, shoveling snow, emptying the dishwasher, and cleaning the bathroom. These chores should be part of the contract mentioned below, and they should include the standard of excellence you expect (e.g., grass cut once per week before 5:00pm on Saturday, dishwasher completely emptied every morning before 8:00am, etc.).
Create Employment Expectations Many Millennials have employment standards so high they can’t find a job. This can be frustrating for parents who cut their own teeth on entry-level positions in their formative years. It is not unreasonable for parents to expect their adult children to be working a minimum of 40 hours/week, even if this means holding two or more jobs they may not necessarily enjoy. Some families require adult children to either be working, and/or looking for work, a minimum of 40 hours/week.
Establish and Monitor Financial Goals The reason most Millennials move home is they run out of money. While they are living at home it is crucial they be working towards being financially secure. Help your adult child establish realistic financial goals (i.e., save $5000, pay off student loans, etc.), and hold periodic meetings to ensure the child is working towards meeting those goals.
Have Children Pay Their Own Bills A majority of Millennials get financial help from their parents. To be prepared for the responsibilities of unsupervised adulthood, have your child pay their own bills, such as automobile insurance, cell phone charges, and health insurance premiums. Even if you are providing financial support for some of the bills, the child should be writing the checks. Too many Millennials avoid moving out because they are intimidated by the bill paying responsibilities of adulthood. By giving them an opportunity to build their own relationships with insurance companies, auto mechanics, cell phone companies, etc., you are removing a major hurdle that prevents so many Millennials from living independently.
Mark a Move-Out Date on the Calendar It is important there be an expected launch date. This will encourage the child to find employment, save money, and look for a place of their own. Make sure the launch date is far enough in the future to ensure the child has a reasonable chance of meeting their financial goals. For example, if the goal is to save $5000, giving the child 10 months (save $500/mo) is reasonable.
Bring in a Third Party to Arbitrate Disputes If Mom and Dad experience difficulty seeing eye to eye on goals and expectations for their adult children who move back home, get help! Meet periodically with a family therapist, spiritual leader, or respected family friend who can offer objective guidance on how to help Junior or Sissy launch back into the world of adulthood. Sometimes a third party who is not emotionally involved can see the situation more clearly than the parents, and their suggestions may ensure established expectations and goals for the child aren’t too lenient or too harsh.
Create a Contract If you and your spouse disapprove of drugs or alcohol, loud music, profanity, or questionable moral choices, make sure you write down your rules in the form of a contract and have your child sign. If you expect common areas like the kitchen, bathroom, and living spaces to be clean and tidy, put those in the contract as well. If your child has accumulated furniture and other household items, make sure you consider where they will be stored, and if your child has a car, you will have to determine where it will be parked. Clearly state in the contract that failure to comply with any provisions will be grounds for eviction. Additionally, poor attitudes, unwillingness to work towards financial independence, or refusing to work 40+ hours per week should also be grounds for premature launch.
While much has been written about the difficult employment opportunities available to Millennials, that has not been my observations. Not a week goes by where I don’t see opportunities I would have jumped on thirty years ago if I needed the money. With the struggling Millennials I have counseled, their unwillingness to do unpleasant work makes it nearly impossible for them to find any employment to their liking. Even when they find work, they are not always interested in working much beyond 20 hours a week. This makes it difficult to pay off student loans or save enough funds to get their own apartment or pay their own bills. The reason why many Millennials are having difficulty growing up and moving out is they have been spared the adversities earlier generations experienced in their own early adulthood. When Millennials move back home, it is important they learn the skills necessary to succeed in adulthood. Moving back home may be just the opportunity for Mom and Dad to properly equip Junior and Sissy with the tools necessary to develop them into happy and productive citizens.