How Long Is Too Long for Young Adults to Live at Home?

Mother and daughter hugging unpacking boxes in apartment
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 The financial needs of young adults and their ability to support themselves is a much different scenario from what it was when their parents were in their 20's and even their 30's. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2015 there were 6 million young adults ages 25 to 34 living at home.  The percentages  for young adults in the 18 to 24 age bracket are 58% of young men and 52% of young women living with their parents.

There are many reasons for this phenomenon, including increased cost of living, depressed wages, the cost of health insurance and underemployment (being employed at a level below one's skills and/or financial needs). A generation of helicopter-parented kids, many of whom carry student loan debts (averaging $28,400 for all borrowers in 2014), are finding that it's easier and more economical to live at home with mom and dad for as long as possible. 

How Long is Too Long?

For some families, having adult children living at home is a help. For example, if a parent is ill or in need of help of any kind, a young adult can be of assistance. Other families who may be struggling financially find it can ease the burden of bills, mortgages and more to have another paycheck coming into the home. Still others are culturally and historically used to having family members live together for as long as possible.

For many, however, young adults remain at home simply because it's easier and less expensive than living on their own. Opinions about this lifestyle choice range from enthusiasm to anger, as baby boomers look at millennials and see a very different way of living from their own young adulthood.

Obviously each family needs to have their own parameters for how long their 20 (or even 30) something young adults should live with their parents. Because it's become accepted - indeed, for some, even preferred - to living on their own, there isn't as much of a rush to push young adults out of the family home. It is a good idea, however, to have some guidelines for your young adults in order to encourage them to find the financial ability to set up their own home - whether with roommates, as many do, or solo. As much as parents and young adults enjoy each other's company, it's important for both generations to move forward with their lives to the next step, whatever it may be

Steps to Independence for Your Young Adult

Financial stability is the number one concern for any young adult's independence, and parents can help with that goal. 

Charge your young adults a nominal amount for rent, and then put it away for them for when they're ready to move out.

Parents who don’t feel the need to use the money collected from a child can quietly create a “parental 401(k).” This will force a child to save money without him or her knowing it. When it comes time for the child to move out, parents can present the nest egg in a form of a check, or deposit it into a bank account. If parents are feeling really generous, they can provide a percentage match like an employer would.  - US News and World Report

Treat your young adult as a roommate, not a child. Do not do their laundry, run errands, pack their lunches or other make other parental gestures, except on a very limited basis - as an act of kindness instead of a responsibility. If you are paying for their groceries and making dinners, make sure to let them know that they are required to help with clean up and shopping.

Keep your social life independent of theirs. It's ok to go to a movie or dinner once in a while, but don't fall into the trap of having your young adults be your default companions. Eventually when they move on you will want to have relationships with your friends in good standing. Likewise, keep your opinions about their friends and dates to yourself.

Mind your business - except when it comes to extravagant spending. If you see that your young adult is spending money on frivolous or unnecessary things - expensive clothing, concerts, many evenings out with friends - you have every right to say something regarding your expectations for their financial responsibilities. 

Living at home should be a stop on the way to independence, not an extended period of childhood.