The recession can shape a generation. With many college graduates over the past few years unable to find jobs right away, many opted to move from campus back home with mom and dad. The proliferation of this trend has led to concepts like the Boomerang Generation and Prolonged (or Extended) Adolescence. Both refer to the idea that young adults are not gaining the maturity and independence they’ll need to function well later on in life.
I disagree. College graduates, for the most part, do not want to move back in with their parents, and will only do so as a last resort. I have some personal experience. After college, I lived with my father for a few months before finding a roommate to live with. Several years later, after going broke working for an arts organization, I eventually accepted defeat and moved back in with my father one more time — for four months.
This was the beginning of my financial awakening. I got back on my feet quickly and moved out as soon as I could; at this point, I didn’t want to be a burden to anyone. Those who have fallen victim to the Boomerang Generation probably have the same point of view; this living arrangement is a temporary solution and is not impeding the development of a capable, independent approach to living.
I know I’m much better for this non-traditional living situation. I was lucky both times to have the opportunity to get myself started or restarted. Some people are not as lucky. The New York Times recently featured an article about a young married couple with a young daughter who moved in with the mother’s parents’ house due to unemployment. The living situation is difficult, and it probably illustrates the difference between one family moving in with what is in effect another family and one individual moving in.
In the New York Times example, the parents who opened their house to the second and third generation of their family were having financial struggles of their own — not far-fetched in this economy that is supposedly in recovery but still sports high unemployment. A tough financial situation, tight living quarters, and philosophical differences particularly when raising a young child all contribute to making this situation volatile. This is a colorful example of how this type of living situation can tear a family apart.
I think families should continue to support each other to the best of their abilities. How could parents refuse to help when their children’s other option is a homeless shelter? I’m pretty sure that I could have survived either time if I had to live on my own, but I would have had to rely on credit for meeting my everyday expenses, including rent. Not everyone is as fortunate as I was, and for those who aren’t, a homeless shelter is the only other possibility.
Is it a good idea to move back with your parents? The answer seems to be, like it usually is, that it depends on the situation. From a financial perspective, having an “easy” living situation with minimal expenses could be what someone needs to get a start — or a fresh start — particularly in a difficult economy. On the other hand, personalities can clash and it could ruin relationships.
Would you offer to share your living space with your adult children, and possibly their family, if their financial condition deteriorated? Would you consider moving you or your family in with your parents if your income and savings dried up?
Published or updated December 29, 2010.