Twenty-nine-year-old Robert was confident that his MBA in finance would secure him a solid career and a comfortable future. After getting laid off from his enviable position at a top financial institution, he found it difficult to replace his income and had to accept a job with a 50 per cent pay cut. Unable to afford his rent and faced with mounting unpaid bills, Robert had no choice but to move back home with his mother.
Susan, a 46-year-old divorcee, had very little to fall back on after her husband of 25 years left her. She had not worked for a long time and was desperate without a place to call home. With no children, the only place she could turn to for help was her elderly parents. Despite her best efforts, Susan has been unsuccessful in obtaining a job and feels frustrated about being dependent on her parents for survival.
Aspiring artist Melissa is adamant that living at home with her parents is the only option that makes sense to her. After graduating from the Edna Manley College of the Visual Arts four years ago, she is in no hurry to go out on her own. “There’s no way that I can replicate the standard of living that I have grown accustomed to at home with Mom and Dad,” she declares. “Why should I leave and struggle to survive?”
There are several circumstances, such as loss of income or divorce, which may push adult children to move back into their parents’ home for a short time. In fact, it’s not unusual for grown children in Jamaica to remain a part of the family household without ever venturing out on their own. However, the current challenging economic climate has led to a marked increase in persons who are forced to return to their parents’ nest because of financial difficulties.
The Boomerang Generation
Thanks to this phenomenon, the media has coined a term ‘boomerang generation’ to refer to young adults, usually in the 20-35 age groups, who live at home with their parents and are financially dependent on them. Just like the Australian tool that gave them their name, these adult children boomerang right back home when the going gets too tough on their own.
The financial reality of our times doesn’t leave many options for today’s boomerang kids. Even though more persons are gaining tertiary-level qualifications, the number of job options to accommodate them is dwindling. Many college graduates are burdened with tuition debt that obliges them to stay at home until they can sort out their financial situation. It’s now also harder for young adults to afford to purchase their own home than it was for those in earlier generations.
Although some parents may initially welcome their adult family members back home, there are several issues which could affect their financial and emotional well-being that should be considered. Adding dependent children to the household’s budget can be an unplanned financial burden that can have severe implications for the parents’ future prosperity.
Here are some suggestions on how parents can balance the effects of their boomerang kids:
Set firm guidelines
To prevent disagreements and misunderstandings about the living arrangements, it’s best to first have frank discussions about the reasons that prompted the move back home. If the boomerang children are trying to recover from an adverse financial situation, agree on reasonable time limits on when they should be back on their feet. Help recent school leavers to set goals about attaining their independence outside of the home. Arrive at a mutual understanding about personal issues such as guests, partying and household rules.
Ask for a financial contribution
Although some parents may be appalled at the thought of asking their children to pay rent, it is important to have them contribute to the household expenses. Their presence in the home usually leads to higher utility and food bills, and they should be required to share these costs. If they are without a source of income, ask them to take on some duties such as cooking or cleaning. It’s tempting for adult children to forget that their parents are no longer obligated to take care of them, so they need a structure to help them participate in the running of the home.
Maintain your financial security
At the end of the day, having adult children back at home should not put parents in an adverse financial condition. If they are facing challenging debt problems, help them to find options to reduce their obligations. Some parents would like to provide financial assistance, but they have to be careful about using money that should be earmarked for retirement needs. It’s also important that children don’t develop a dependency on their parents to bail them out whenever they make financial mistakes.
Boomerang kids can actually help to foster family togetherness by bringing multiple generations under one roof. However, parents must ensure that they protect their financial interests while enjoying their children’s company!
Copyright © 2009 Cherryl Hanson Simpson.
Cherryl Hanson Simpson is a financial consultant and money coach, and founder of Financially S.M.A.R.T. Services. She is currently writing her first book, “The 3 Ms of Money: How to Manage, Multiply and Maintain Your Money.” Financially S.M.A.R.T. Services is Jamaica’s number one source for practical, down-to-earth and independent answers for all questions relating to personal finance. Get more smart money advice at www.financiallysmartonline.com and and www.financiallysmartadvice.com .