It's an international phenomenon: the kids that won't go away. The Italians call them "mammon," or "mama's boys." The Japanese call them "parasaito shinguru," or "parasite singles." In the United States they are known as "boomerangs," and in the U.K. they are called "KIPPERS," which is short for "kids in parents' pockets eroding retirement savings." According to the Pew Research Center, close to 33% of Americans aged 25-29 were living with their parents.
Generally speaking, this is a more common practice for sons than daughters. Surveys in the United Kingdom and Japan suggest a similar situation in those countries. In this article, we discuss some of the reasons why kids may be living with their parents for longer periods of time and outline some steps that parents can take to reduce the potential for negative effects – both for their kids and for themselves.
The Benefits of Staying Home
Growing up is not only tough, but it is also increasingly expensive. In the quest for a rewarding career, many young adults opt for college after high school. Four years later, they have massive school loans for tens of thousands of dollars (or more), and that number is steadily increasing. Add on the cost of a car, food, clothing, shelter, and a social life, and suddenly one may find themself digging out of personal debt. It is easy to see that moving back in with mom and dad becomes a financially attractive option.
Aah! The benefits of home! Somebody else pays the bills, worries about the mortgage, cuts the grass and – if a kid is really lucky – cooks, cleans and does the laundry. It's like having a butler, a maid and a really rich uncle all rolled into one. No stress, no bills to pay, no worries about the threat of unemployment, eviction and so on. What's not to like?
Often, if boomerang kids need money, they find that mom and dad are more than willing to open up the checkbook. The kids only need to stick out a hand and somebody will put a few bucks into it. To top it all off, they can use their earnings as discretionary income, and once they are established, it's unlikely that their parents will kick them out. Living at home rent-free often means a new car, designer clothes, and a week in Mexico are suddenly easy to afford, even on an entry-level salary.
What's a Parent to Do?
Clearly, moving back home has enormous and immediate advantages for the kids, but it's not such a great deal for the parents and, in the long term, it may not be good for the kids either. That KIPPERS moniker is an accurate depiction of an ugly scenario. Some parents are too kind to kick out their still-dependent kids, so instead of using their prime earning years to save and invest for retirement, the parents are pouring their money into adult children who can't or won't strike out on their own. Furthermore, in addition to jeopardizing mom and dad's retirement, Junior isn't learning a thing about the responsibilities that come with being an adult.
You've heard the old saying: "Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime." A similar concept applies to your adult children. If you give them free room and board, you may be feeding them for a lifetime, but they'll never learn to feed themselves. It's just one of the sad facts of life that most folks will keep taking if you keep giving.
If your adult kids want to come back home, or they won't leave, you need to lay down the law. Teach them that there's no free lunch in life. Maintaining a household is an expensive proposition, so everyone living under your roof needs to carry his or her own weight by paying his or her fair share of the expenses. This includes paying rent, paying utility bills, and paying for food.
While the kids are chipping in to pay for telephone and cable service, the parents need to make sure to keep their wallets closed. Your children need to pay their own bills. This includes car payments, insurance, gasoline, credit cards, and cell phones. Kids need to learn that if they incur expenses, they are responsible for paying them. This will surely teach a child the beauty of budgeting.
More than Money
In addition to learning to pay their own way, your children need to understand that households don't keep themselves up without some assistance. Everyone living in the house needs to be responsible for keeping it clean and keeping it maintained. Mowing the lawn, weeding the flower beds, painting the shutters and cleaning the bathroom are par for the course when you own a home. If the kids are living at home, they need to do their share of the work.
The Bottom Line
While there's no easy way to take a child to task, especially when that child is an adult, tough love prepares kids for reality. Mom and dad won't be around forever to tidy up the house and pay all of the bills. If the kids learn to manage their money and maintain a household before they leave home, they (and you) will be better off in the long run.