Retiring boomers: Are roommates in your future?

(MoneyWatch) Many baby boomers are expecting their adult children or aging parents to move in with them, according to a recent survey conducted by the PulteGroup, a national homebuilder.

Fourteen percent of homeowners with adult children already have such "boomerang" roommates, but more than twice as many (31 percent) expect at least one child to return home in the future. Similarly, 15 percent of homeowners with living parents have them at home, but again more than twice as many (32 percent) expect to share their homes in with a parent in future.

A common reason for this trend is finances. But most homeowners don't see the return of family members as a negative financial event, with just one in five parents of adult children and 13 percent with aging parents viewing it as a financial problem.

This finding is in apparent contradiction with another result of the survey: Many homeowners expect to expand their existing home or move into a larger home to accommodate the additional family members. For example, of those homeowners with aging parents already living with them or anticipating them moving in down the road, 72 expect to remodel or move to a larger home. For homeowners expecting adult children to move back in, 49 percent expect to expand their home or move to a larger home.

Frankly, this last result makes me wince. Aging boomers already have inadequate retirement savings and are strapped with too much debt, whether from mortgages or credit cards. Could this be another example of boomers taking care of their kids at the expense of their own retirement?

I realize that family is a top priority for many people, but hopefully some of the homeowners expecting to expand or move to a bigger home could instead figure out how to make do with their existing living space. Then they could take the money they would have spent on expanding or upgrading and invest it in their retirement.

Here's some perspective: You don't want to make things too comfy for your adult children -- otherwise, they'll never move out! And the time spent with aging parents may be temporary, which means you'll have invested in space you need only for a short period of time.

On the bright side, a large number of homeowners had aging parents move in as a deliberate choice to enhance family relationships and to build a better bond with their parents. And that's the stuff that really counts.

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    Steve Vernon helped large employers design and manage their retirement programs for more than 35 years as a consulting actuary. Now he's a research scholar for the Stanford Center on Longevity, where he helps collect, direct and disseminate research that will improve the financial security of seniors. He's also president of Rest-of-Life Communications, delivers retirement planning workshops and authored Money for Life: Turn Your IRA and 401(k) Into a Lifetime Retirement Paycheck and Recession-Proof Your Retirement Years.

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