Ground Rules for Boomerang Kids

It’s okay to help, but don’t coddle.

Suzanne Bernier is one of the lucky ones. Just before graduating from Brandeis University in 2010, she landed a job at a medical software company. Yet after graduation, the frugal 24-year-old moved back in with her parents. “I wanted to save as much money as possible,” she says.

More than one-fifth of people ages 25 to 34 live in multi-generational homes, the highest level since the 1950s, reports Pew Research. The hospitality helps boomerangers stay positive in tough times. More than three-fourths of people ages 25 to 34 who have lived at home are upbeat about their future finances, according to Pew.

Laying ground rules can help prevent a clash of the generations. “Put a game plan together with expectations,” says Linda Leitz, a certified financial planner in Colorado. Parents who open their homes should establish a time limit for the stay and get regular progress reports. The child should pay rent, save money or pay off debt. Don’t subsidize a lavish lifestyle. If kids can’t contribute money, consider requiring household chores instead.

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Parents should gradually turn up the heat, Leitz says. Raise the cost of rent by a certain date, for example, even if your plan is to make a gift of the money when your child departs. The comfort of home shouldn’t be cushy enough to erode financial independence.

John Miley
Senior Associate Editor, The Kiplinger Letter

John Miley is a Senior Associate Editor at The Kiplinger Letter. He mainly covers technology, telecom and education, but will jump on other important business topics as needed. In his role, he provides timely forecasts about emerging technologies, business trends and government regulations. He also edits stories for the weekly publication and has written and edited e-mail newsletters.

He joined Kiplinger in August 2010 as a reporter for Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine, where he wrote stories, fact-checked articles and researched investing data. After two years at the magazine, he moved to the Letter, where he has been for the last decade. He holds a BA from Bates College and a master’s degree in magazine journalism from Northwestern University, where he specialized in business reporting. An avid runner and a former decathlete, he has written about fitness and competed in triathlons.