How long is too long to live with your parents? Survey shows generation gap

Robi Ludwig
How long is too long to live with your parents? Survey shows generation gap
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[Yahoo! Homes editor's note: Coldwell Banker Real Estate and Robi Ludwig, a practicing psychotherapist, surveyed more than 2,000 Americans about "boomerang" kids, adult children who live with their parents, and they're releasing the results here. We asked Dr. Ludwig to explain the findings -- and the lessons within them.]

How long is too long to live with your parents?

It's an urgent question. The percentage of young adults living in their parents' home has hit a record high, according to new research. As a practicing psychotherapist, I wanted to know: Are they overstaying their welcome? What effect is this "boomerang" trend having on parents, emerging adults and Americans in general?

Coldwell Banker Real Estate and I surveyed more than 2,000 adults in the U.S. to find out (link goes to PDF). I work with Coldwell Banker as a lifestyle correspondent.

We found a marked difference in how older Americans and younger Americans feel about kids who aren't leaving the nest, or who are flying back after a stint of independent living:

If you ask Millennials (age 18 to 34), they'll say that living at home for as long as five years after college is appropriate.

But according to older Americans (55 and up), that's almost twice as long as kids should stay. Kids should move out within three years of graduating, older Americans say. Men who are 55 or older take an even harder line. They think that two years is too long to live with parents after college graduation.

From a psychological perspective, we see primarily two types of kids who return to live at home with their parents:

Perma-children regress to behave more like high school students than independent adults. They have their parents cook them dinner, do their laundry, and they spend their income on going out to eat, cars and vacations. Perhaps most important, they have no particular exit strategy in mind.

Young adults who live at home with purpose use this temporary state of limbo to maximize their life options. They save money, have goals for their future and have a set plan to eventually live independent of their parents.

It's almost as if 27 is the new 18. Living at home can be a great opportunity for young adults who need some time to get on their feet, but it's only beneficial if the time is used wisely. Today’s leading developmental psychologists say that our 20s are some of the most important and formative years of our lives. All of one’s habits and accomplishments during this time set the foundation for future success, or lack thereof, for many years to come.

That's why some of our other survey findings are so useful. We found a significant generation gap in attitudes toward chores and rent, for example. Just 69 percent of Millennials think adult children living with their parents should pay rent, whereas 88 percent of all other adults felt that way. And 95 percent of adults 35 and older think that adult children living at home should do their own chores, compared with 84 percent of Millennials.

So how can young adults living with their parents make the most of their time living at home?

Realize life is not free. Set aside money each month to make a rent payment. Even if the amount is low compared to today’s cost of living, making these payments will develop habits that will lead to successful independence.

Use the time as an opportunity to set aside money. If you’re going to live at home, use this time to achieve financial stability. Our survey found that 80 percent of Americans feel it’s okay for adult children to live at home if they are saving money to buy a home. Learn to live within your means and save money for large and important purchases like student loans, graduate school or a down payment on a home.

Be on the lookout. If you’re contemplating returning to school or looking for work, use this time to actively search for opportunities as if it were your full time job. Our survey showed that 65 percent of Americans agree that adult children who live with their parents should move out as soon as they find a job.

Make your 20s count. If nothing else, realize that these years matter! Don’t make excuses. Use this time to give yourself a competitive edge for your future. Make your own luck, and the opportunities will follow.

In the end, the decision to move back home is complex and extremely personal. One thing is for sure, this time spent living at home should help you develop and thrive to your fullest potential.

Let us know what you think of adult children living at home with their parents in the comments below. How long is too long for kids to live with their parents after college, and what goals do you think will help them transition into full independent adulthood?


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