You did everything right. You worked hard. You saved diligently, through your 401(k) and on your own. You invested shrewdly. You charted out your retirement years wisely. Now you’re ready for your Golden Years.
You have only one more thing to take care of — your kids. Your twenty- or thirty-something adult children, the ones who can’t let go for love or money. As soon as they get back on their feet, you can set sail for your twilight years. Or so you thought.
In 1992, Democratic campaign adviser James Carville helped usher Bill Clinton into office with the catch phrase “it’s the economy stupid.” Since then, each time your kids lost their jobs or dropped out of school, you used the same phrase to explain to yourself why their careers never got off the ground and they were still living at home — your home.
As employment opportunities decrease, it becomes more socially acceptable for adult children to live at home with their parents.
In 2012, according to a Pew Research take on US Census Bureau information, 36% of young adults between 18 and 31 were living in their parents’ home. This translates into 21.6 million of the so-called Millennial Generation living with their parents, up from 18.5 million in 2007. The study also traces socioeconomic conditions that go along with this trend: declining employment, increased college enrollment, and declining marriage.
Young men are more prone to this kind of dependence than young women. But in general, the trend is troubling.
“Looking at longer term trends, the analysis finds that the share of young adults living in their parents’ home was relatively constant from 1968 (the earliest comparable data available) to 2007, at about 32%. However, other household arrangements of young adults changed dramatically during this period. For example, the share who were married and living with a spouse fell from 56% in 1968 to 27% in 2007. And the share who were living with a roommate or child or were cohabiting with a partner increased nearly fivefold (from 5.5% to 26%).”
You can slice the causes, effects, and trends any which way, but one thing seems clear. As employment opportunities decrease, it becomes more acceptable socially for adult children to be living at home with their parents. Once it becomes so, you might as well put your plans for retirement on hold. You've done your best, but now it’s up to the kids. You gave them roots for years. Now it’s time to give them wings. Here are 3 suggestions to help get you out from under.
Get Over the Guilt
How bad can it still be for your kids if they’re still hanging around? If life were that horrible, you know they would have found another way. Your children wouldn't be the first ones to have to accept jobs below their nominal education level. If they had to find a way, they would. Accept the fact that, as a parent, you've made some mistakes — but for the most part, you've done the best you can. It’s time for them and you to move on.
Stop All Handouts, Loans, Free Laundry Services, and Other Creature Comforts
C’mon! You know better! You agreed this was just temporary. Keep making it comfortable for them and they’ll never leave. Meanwhile, you’re shelling out money you never figured into your retirement formula.
Put a Strict Limit on the Time They Can Stay with You
No need to nag them. But remind your kids that they can only hang around for a specific amount of time — six months, nine months, whatever. Then stick to your plan. Even if it means they dragged their heels, and now will wind up moving back with a roommate they don’t care for.
Ignore these suggestions at your peril. Because one day, you’ll look into your mirror and tell yourself: “It wasn't the economy after all. It was me… stupid.”