Why Adult Kids are not Moving Out

It’s no big secret that kids are living with their parents longer and many are moving back home after college or after having been out on their own.  Gone are the days when teenagers boldly struck out on their own adventures soon after they turned 18.  Also gone are the days when parents gave their children a gentle nudge to leave the nest when they became adults.  Since I have two adult children living at home, I have become somewhat of an expert on this subject.  Here are my observations.

Finances have Changed

Moving Out

Image by Gabriel Saldana

When I moved out at the tender young age of 19, I had a great job working at a union supermarket.  I lived beach-front for $240 per month and 12 units of community college tuition cost $50, before books and fees.  I can’t say that life was easy, but it certainly wasn’t that hard.  My son works in a similar union supermarket and he makes about $2 more per hour than I did 29 years ago.  Rent, gas and tuition have quadrupled, while food and utilities have at least doubled.  Plus, there are some new costs we didn’t have, such as cell phones and Internet access.  When you add it all up, life is tougher now for young adults who are out on their own, than it used to be.

To be honest, life is getting tougher for most of their parents too.  Not only is inflation eating their shrinking paychecks, they are often helping their adult children and their parents at the same time.  Many are sacrificing their retirement savings in the process.

Responsibilities have Changed

The biggest change I see is that kids are used to spending all of their income on themselves.  They don’t know how to budget or how to manage income and expenses, because it isn’t expected of them.  I had to start paying rent the day I turned 18 and I was still in high school.  I didn’t complain about it, because our family needed the money.  We all pitched in because my parents were divorced and my Mom was putting herself through college.  I would have never dreamed of asking my parents to buy me a car or pay for my college.  Not only did I know that was never going to happen, I considered it my own personal responsibility, not theirs.  There is a lot more social pressure for parents to buy their kids cars and send them off to college, which may not be realistic in many families.

The Safety Net is Huge

When I first turned 21, I spent all of my money at the night clubs on weekends.  I had to live off one hamburger per day until payday.  I did this a couple of times, before I realized I should budget some money for food.  Kids who remain at home aren’t forced into making these types of survival decisions, because their parent’s refrigerator is always full.  If their car breaks down and they haven’t saved any money for maintenance, parents bail them out.  I had to ride the bus.  If they quit or lose their job, they just have more free time to hang out.  They don’t have to worry about being hungry or homeless, like other adults.  There are few consequences for poor financial decisions while they live at home and this affects the learning process.

Kids Have it Made

Another reason I believe kids put off moving out is because they have it made at home. They have their own rooms, their own TVs and computers, Internet access, laundry service, a chef and a maid.  Some parents continue to pay for their kid’s cell phones, clothes, gasoline and car insurance. Moving out becomes a big lifestyle downgrade and a huge loss of disposable income. Because of their parent’s generous nature, that first flight from the nest seems more like getting thrown off a building.  It’s no wonder they keep putting it off.

My Battle Plan

I looked forward to each of my kids becoming adults and I had a battle plan in place just for that moment.  I watched other kids work their parents over and I swore it wasn’t going to happen to me.  I was definitely going to make my kids grow up and toe the line.  I wasn’t going to let them lie around all day and use me as an ATM.  It was going to be my way or the highway.  Let me tell you how it all worked out.

I greatly underestimated their ability to slide out from under responsibility and shift the blame back onto us.  They worked every angle, tried every tactic and applied every guilt trip, known to their friends.  A lot of grenades were thrown and bombs were dropped.  After the dust settled and the smoke cleared, both the parents and the kids had learned a lot.  My kids work hard, pay rent and follow most of the rules.  It’s never perfect, but it is definitely improving.  Outside of the nest, the world is waiting.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that parents and kids both have a responsibility to launch the transition into adulthood.  A kid who lounges around on their parent’s couch is no better than the parent who enables their adult children with a lifestyle they can’t afford on their own.  At some point, kids need to step up and parents need to let go.

“Most children threaten at times to run away from home. This is the only thing that keeps some parents going.”

Phyllis Diller – Actress and Comedienne

Recommended Reading

Romeo Clayton – Why I will Never have Another Child
Financial Freedom Inspiration – He Who has the Gold Makes the Rules
Millionaire Nurse Blog – Instilling Personal Responsibility

15 comments to Why Adult Kids are not Moving Out

  • Paul N

    Nice article. Kind of sums up a lot of situations. Trouble is people can’t seem to follow these good ideas. To many parents just enable their kids to have one big party at their expense. I don’t get it but I guess you have to live with the result of your own actions… (especially in this case)

    • Thanks for stopping by Paul.

      I am 48 years old and I have two friends my age who still live at home. One lost his job and rides a road bike every day. The other never left home and followed his parents when they moved away.

      There is a fine line between helping someone and enabling them. When you are a parent, it’s hard to bust chops on the children you love. But, it is so necessary, especially if they are slacking.
      Bret recently posted..Opportunity is All we were PromisedMy Profile

  • Paul N

    I’m almost the same age as you. I sometimes wonder what late 70’s early 80’s kids did wrong as parents? Some say it’s parents trying to be a kids friend rather then being the bad parent.

    The stress that these families come under from this as well. Some parents are funding two families : themselves and their kids. Then there is zero left for retirement. I don’t think they realize that when you have a 30+ year old infant dragging your finances down, your only 10 -15 years from a normal retirement age and your looking forward to a whole $1000 or maybe $1200 bucks a month pension. (If of course you made enough to get close to the maximum payout)

    There is going to be a big shock to a lot of folks coming down the pipe. The sad thing is these failure to launch kids will be of no help then either. At that point their only hope is a good insurance policy on you and your final act of love for them….

    I know harsh…

    • Not to let over indulging parents off the hook, but I believe society and modern culture also have a lot to do with these changes.

      If you watch a TV show like the Wonder Years or That 70s Show, the Dads were hard-@sses, just like my Dad was. If you ignored or back-talked your parents in the 70s, you got lit up. Kids had respect for adults and that’s the way it should be.

      Now, Dads are portrayed as fat and stupid, like they are on the Disney Channel. It’s OK for the kids on TV to ignore their parents, because they are clueless. They break all the rules but are never punished, because they were right all along. If parents spank their misbehaving kids, they call 911 and the parents get in trouble. So, parents resort to bribery, begging and negotiation.

      These days, kids grow up with the consequences of their poor choices and actions falling on their parents, instead of facing discipline themselves. It’s no wonder they have little respect for adults and no motivation to become responsible. Their helicopter parents compound the problems, by blaming teachers and others for their kid’s intolerable behavior.

      At some point, I hope it starts to swing back the other way. I have noticed some of the spoiled children I know become much tougher parents.
      Bret recently posted..Why Rich People Focus on EarningMy Profile

  • I agree. I see too many of my peers still comfortably depending on their parents. There needs to be a push towards independence from both ends.

  • “because they have it made at home. They have their own rooms, their own TVs and computers, Internet access, laundry service, a chef and a maid”

    Our boys have no internet in their rooms, they had to pay for half their 32″ large screen TV, half for their cell phones (and ongoing service), share a room, and have their own household chores to do. No weekly allowance. We’ve been told we’re too strict by others (and called exploitative by the kids themselves), but maybe we’re forestalling boomerang kids.
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  • Kris

    I love this post.

    One thing that helped my family, was that my parents were dead honest and set up & told us the rules long before they became pertinent. I knew at 12 that I would not get any help paying for my education, but that I would be able to live at home. I knew by 15, that if I wasn’t in school, I would be expected to pay rent (at the going rate), and exactly when my parents would stop paying for clothes, gas, sports, and that I would always be responsible for my cell phone plan. I knew that I would not be able to borrow money from my parents for a car, or a house downpayment, that they would never cosign a loan for me. And since my parents always followed through on little things they said, I didn’t even question that they didn’t mean business on this too. I was an adult, if I wanted to be treated like one, I had to have the responsibilities of one.

    I cringe listening to my Aunt complain about the cell phone bills of her three adult children, and how she has to keep Tivo for them, and drive them to/from work – after all it’s dangerous to take the bus. Man having 100% of your minimum wage as disposable income is ALOT – I didn’t have that much for years after graduating, and I worked really hard to get there. They are set up in a lifestyle with spending money that they will never again be able to afford. How’s that for life prep?

    • Hi Kris,

      We have similar rules and they weren’t popular either. We were very clear with the details, but they tried really hard to bend them. To be fair, one of my kids is much better at following the rules than the other.

      I would also never co-sign for a loan. I don’t recommend this for anyone, especially for student loans, which can’t be discharged in a bankruptcy. Depending on the type of cosigned loan, the default rate can be up to 75%. I have friends who drive around the car originally purchased by their kid.
      Bret recently posted..10 Threats to your Future ProsperityMy Profile

  • Don’t understand why adult like to compare. Different upbringing what. What you want me to do. I’m not born to pleased you..

  • I’m making the six year in me happy. I’m eating a lunchable before 9am. Why? Because I’m an adult that’s why.

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  • […] Why Adult Kids Are Not Moving Out I think part of it is that there’s a real lack of a safety net when you move out on your own. There was a much greater safety net forty years ago, when you could get a good paying job rather easily. Today, good paying jobs are harder to come by and there’s far less security, plus young people are saddled with mountains of student loan debt. (@ hope to prosper) […]