How to cope when adult kids or parents move in

It’s been the subject of comedy—a man in his 30s moves back in with his parents, showing no signs of giving up his new pampered lifestyle until his parents hire a “professional motivator” to get him out of the house. While such stories may make for good movies, adult children living at home is a real trend. More and more parents who were once empty nesters are experiencing this so-called “boomerang” phenomenon and living with adult children.
Not only are more adults living with parents, they are also staying an average of three years—about six months longer than previous generations who lived with their parents. 1 A competitive job market, high cost of living and debts such as school loans, car payments and credit cards are key reasons for this trend.

Tips for living with adult children

Helping adult children get back on their feet can be a rewarding experience when all ends well and the child becomes established. However, it can be a challenge if ground rules for adult children living at home are not set up front. These suggestions may help:
  • Ask for a written plan. Adult kids may say they’re only planning a short stay to build up their savings, but they may get comfortable and not actually save money after they move in. Ask for a written plan with goals and deadlines for how long they’ll stay or for landing a job.
  • Establish house rules. Be specific about what you expect, including rent or household chores. List your rules, including access to the kitchen or TV, curfews for noise and guidelines about guests. If grandchildren are also moving in, be clear about babysitting expectations.
  • Don’t let boomerang kids risk your retirement. While wanting to help kids get on their feet financially is natural, dipping into retirement savings to bail them out may put your own future at risk. If you’ve loaned your child money, agree in writing on a repayment plan. If they’re working, insist they put aside savings each month with the goal of becoming independent. If they’re not working, ask them to spend their time constructively, whether job hunting or volunteering.
     

Tips for when parents move in

As more Gen Xers and millennials are moving in with parents, an opposite trend is occurring: parents moving in with their adult children. Today, 14% of adults living in someone else’s house are parents of the head of household, up from 7% in 1995. 2 Although there are various reasons for this trend, a common one is to avoid having parents move to a nursing home.
Having parents live with you can be a wonderful opportunity to bond with them in their later years, but it can also add stress to the household, no matter how close the relationship is. Similar to when adult kids move in, it’s important to address key issues up front. Have an honest discussion about needs and expectations and set boundaries to ensure you’re not getting on each other’s nerves. Here are a few suggested topics to consider when thinking about how to deal with elderly parents living with you:
  • Money: Are they financially secure or are they relying on your support? Be clear about how much you’re willing and able to help.
  • Housekeeping: Are they able to help with the cooking, shopping, laundry and other household chores? Will they share in some of the expenses?
  • Space: Everyone needs their own space. If tight quarters are becoming a problem, you may want to consider building an addition or a private entrance. You may even need to build a ramp or modify a bathroom to accommodate an elderly parent’s needs. If so, determine if this will be a shared expense.
  • Social life: Both you and your live-in parent need to maintain your own social lives. If the parent is new to your area or does not have nearby friends, you could explore community centers, churches or synagogues, and volunteer organizations in your area that offer activities or trips that can help your parent establish relationships.
  • Caregiving needs: When living with elderly parents with substantial healthcare needs, you’ll want to make sure you have coverage so you’re not on call 24/7. Explore elder care resources in your community to find out what kind of services they offer.
     
If an adult child or parent has (re)joined your household, it may be a good time to reassess your budget and your retirement income plan to ensure you stay on track, especially if you’re incurring extra costs. TIAA is here to help. Call us at 888-583-2535, weekdays, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. (ET).
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1 Richard Fry, “It’s becoming more common for young adults to live at home—and for longer stretches,” Pew Research Center, May 5, 2017.
2 Richard Fry, “More adults now share their living space, driven in part by parents living with their adult children,” Pew Research Center, January 31, 2018.
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