Boomerang Kids and Parents Need Ground Rules

Last Updated Sep 6, 2011 1:59 PM EDT

One impact of the persistent high jobless rate: empty nests continue to fill in.

According to the US Census Bureau 6 million young adults (those ages 18 to 24) lived at home in 1960. In 2008, the number of young adults living with their parents has grown to 15 million. And the trend continues: the number of adult children living with their parents increased by 1.2 million from 2008 to 2010, a gain of about 5 percent.

There are a variety of reasons for this increase; job losses, rescinded job offers, low pay and the high cost of rent seem to be the most common. These reasons point back to the sluggish economy and its particularly harsh treatment of younger adults: the unemployment rate for young adults is as high as 37 percent.

Experts say that intergenerational living arrangements - also known as boomeranging - can be a good thing, or a bad thing.

Sometimes kids come back to the nest because they want to save money and get a fresh start. For others it has a different meaning: returning to live with parents is a sign of financial defeat.

Regardless of the reasons, what works best is when the young adult is working, contributing and there are some basic ground rules with which everyone agrees. The bad scenario is when there is no job, no effort to get a job, no contribution, no set departure date, no rules and stress over the situation by the parents and their adult child.

Rules to make it work
The first thing to realize is that young adults are no longer children, but household companions who can contribute and help run the household. Setting rules for contributing, charging rent, household duties, curfews, etc. can also help to set the boundaries and give the parents and their boomerang kid a sense of what is in and out of bounds.

When setting rules, have a mutually agreeable discussion and be flexible. Also recognize what's in it for the young adult (low rent, cable TV, food, laundry facilities, and stability) and what's in it for the parents (living companions help with household expenses and duties, etc). Also be aware that some boomeranging kids will fret over the loss of independence and feel like failures.

Check back in a few days when I'll write about the things parents and their boomerang kids need to ask need to agree upon before they agree to live under the same roof again.

  • Ray Martin

    View all articles by Ray Martin on CBS MoneyWatch»
    Ray Martin has been a practicing financial advisor since 1986, providing financial guidance and advice to individuals. He has appeared regularly as a contributor on the CBS Early Show, CBS NewsPath, as a columnist on CBS and on NBC-TV's morning newscast TODAY. He has also appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show and is the author of two books.