By Eric Garneau
Why Go Home?
Did you just finish college and wonder where to go next? Have you been on your own for a few years but now find your financial situation to be less than agreeable? You're not alone. Droves of college graduates are now reclaiming shelter in their parents' homes. What once was seen as a crutch or a symptom of refusing to grow up has now become a sad necessity for many young people. In November 2011, The New York Times reported that 14.2% of young adults (considered by the U.S. census to be 19-29 years of age) now live with their parents, up 2.4% from 2007, before the Great Recession hit. Often these folks do it because they have to - they can't afford to live on their own. For select others, moving back in with mom and dad just seems like a wise investment, allowing them to put aside some money for future plans or rainy days to come. Given the economic hardships of the last few years, it's hard to fault that strategy.
But should so many young adults be moving back home? When is it a necessary measure to protect one's future, and when does it become a security blanket to avoid having to face the challenges of adult life? If you're living at home not because you have to but because you want to, there are some things you can keep in mind to ease yourself into flying solo, because eventually you're going to want to leave that nest. In such a situation, the key idea is this: when it comes to your living situation, treat your parents like a landlord... or at least like equal tenants.
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Living Under Someone Else's Roof
That means that if you can afford it you should probably be paying some kind of rent to mom and dad for letting you use their space. They'll probably be happy to give you a friends and family discount, but making that effort goes a long way toward showing your appreciation. If you're staying at home because you can't afford to pay rent anywhere else, at least consider chipping in some money for the utility bills - you're using power and heat as much, if not more, than your folks, especially if you're unemployed and hang around the house most of the day. Again, the more cash-strapped you are the less imperative this becomes, but if you're living at home solely to build up a nest egg of your own, kicking a little of that cash towards your parents is the responsible thing to do.
Concomitant with that, remember that your parents share your living space - in fact, they probably own it. That means you have to respect their rules, which are likely to be a bit more strict than what you've been used to living on your own or with friends for the last few years. You may need to watch how much noise you make, for instance, and possibly friends won't be allowed to pop over for extended stays whenever they like. If you foresee things like this being a problem, talk to your parents to make sure you're on the same page. Also, it's completely within your rights to expect respect out of your parents. They ought to recognize that you've been living on your own for some time and this is probably a difficult situation for you, so they should grant you the freedoms that come with being an adult along with the responsibilities. Curfew, for instance, is probably something that needs to go when you return home.
A Tough Decision
What if you're on the fence about making that return? Let's say you have enough money to afford living on your own, but you're not sure it's the best move. In that case, it seems that your best bet is to really think about why you want to return to the house where you grew up. Do you have serious long-term plans for your financial savings that you can more easily execute by living at home? That's probably a good thing. Do you just want to have more spending money in your pocket for a few years? That attitude is less admirable, maybe, but not completely without merit - that immediate post-college period is probably one of the only times in your life you can get away with having fun and being somewhat irresponsible without any serious repercussions. On the other hand, it's really hard to live in a carefree party atmosphere when your parents are upstairs.
There is of course at least one more conceivable reason some college graduates move back home, and that's because they don't think they're ready to live on their own yet. And while that's certainly an understandable impulse, it's one those graduates are going to have to deal with eventually. If you find yourself confused about your life direction after college and frantically looking for jobs, there's nothing wrong with embracing whatever comfort you can, at least for awhile. But at some point you're going to have to step out into a world where you can't fall back on your parents to help you. If you've got the job and you've got the money, maybe it's time to take that plunge. There's no better way to know if you can than to try.
Consider the reverse of this situation: what do parents do when they want to go back to school?