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
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