The Boomerang Generation: College Graduates Moving Back Home

Boomerang College Graduates

Should college graduates be allowed back home?

Parents, while you may have looked forward to being an empty nester, if your child has recently graduated from college, you’re more likely to have your adult child as a new roommate.

Graduates, while you may have looked forward to finishing school, your chances of ending up back at home with mom and dad are pretty high.

According to Twentysomething Consulting and Research, a poll of 2011 college graduates indicates that approximately 85% of this year’s new grads will be moving back home.* According to a Pew Study, “42% of college graduates [ages 18-29] live with their parents.” Between the lackluster job market (and the fact that unemployment tends to be higher in the under 25 demographic), the amount of student debt most college graduates face, and the cost of housing, it’s no wonder that college is turning into more of a hiatus from home, rather than as a launch into independence.

Parents, while it’s natural for parents to want to help their children, no matter their age, it is important to make sure what you do during this (often trying) time will help, rather than hinder your child’s chances for success. Here are some tips for making sure that your boomerang kid can successfully navigate this tough economy. Graduates, we’ve also included some tips for you to navigate this phase of life as well.

1. Make a Plan Together

While family should always be welcome, it is also important that you and your child sit down together and decide ground rules for living at home—including a tentative end date. These ground rules will be different depending on circumstances, but it is important that you make it clear that as an adult, your child is expected to contribute like an adult.

That might mean paying rent, helping around the house, applying for jobs within her field while working a McJob, or making some sort of job or career progress (like finding investors for a business or starting to send out freelance articles). It’s also good to let her know that eventually you expect her to find her own place.

This might be an uncomfortable discussion, but it will be part of helping your child to feel like an adult. It will be much easier for him to put on his big boy pants and take on the challenges the world throws at him if he knows everyone—including his parents—thinks of him as a grownup.

Graduates: Even if you don’t have a plan, communicate with your parents. Respect their boundaries and desire for structure to the post-college relationship. This is a healthy approach and one that will serve you well as you make your way out of the house. As soon as you are able, take steps to get out of the house. Consider alternatives like moving in with a friend who’s also struggling to find steady work, or doing volunteer work that comes with room and board.

2. Think Twice Before Giving Money

While it can certainly be tough to watch your child struggle financially, swooping in with your checkbook might not be the best strategy. Helping her put together a financial plan to get her feet under her will give her better sense of how she can stay afloat on her own. You are giving your boomerang child a place to stay, but you should not be financing a lifestyle she can’t afford.

You also want to make sure that your retirement funds are sacrosanct. As tempting as it might be to dip into your retirement savings in order to help your child, you can’t sacrifice your future security. Your child has years of earning potential ahead of him, while you are nearing retirement.

Graduates: Continue living like you’re in college. Keep the expenses low and stay resourceful with your methods for bringing in extra cash and making those dollars go further. Think twice before asking for financial assistance. Only use it as a last resort.

3. Expect Some Bumps

This is a tough emotional time for everyone. Your child is in a twilight in-between stage where she isn’t quite a child and isn’t quite an adult, and you have no doubt gotten used to a different dynamic in the house while she was away at college.

It’s inevitable that you will have some conflict, and it’s good to anticipate these issues. Treating your child like the adult she has become will do a lot to help ease the situation—and it will help her to take the steps necessary to become independent.

Graduates: It’s reasonable to expect your parents to wish this to only be a temporary engagement. You are now way past the age of accountability. Go find that job, even if it’s a part-time job, and get out of that house as soon as you can to avoid any future conflict with your parents. Don’t put them in the position of having to kick you out.

Readers, did you live with your parents post college? Do you have any advice to give to help navigate these waters?

Photo by jdn

*Editor’s note on the correction: the left-leaning Politifact did some research and it appears that the methodology behind the Twentysomething study could not be verified. We replaced it with a still troubling study which Politifact linked to that showed the number at 42%.

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About Emily Guy Birken

Emily Guy Birken is a former English teacher and respected personal finance blogger. She lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with her engineer husband and two high-energy little boys. She has written four books: The Five Years Before You Retire, Choose Your Retirement, Making Social Security Work For You, and End Financial Stress Now. Emily's thoughts on parenting and life in general are found at The SAHMnambulist.


  1. Jacob @ My Personal Finance Journey says:

    I imagine this can be a tough situation, especially if money is tight for the parents or they were ready to have a break from having kids around.
    However, I think that a lot of parents would be thrilled to have their kids move back in! haha I think mine would be OK with it as long as I was actively looking for a job or doing a job.

  2. Kody @ Financial Money tips says:

    ya 85 percent is such a high nummber. But to tell you the truth there is nothing wrong with moving in with your parents.. I went to college and thought it was a complete waste of time. I stopped going after 2 years, because i thought the investment wasn’t worth it. Instead, i decided to move back home and become an entrepreneur. It has been the best decision of my life. Ya i get free food and free rent but that is my parents choice not mine. I try to pay them and they refuse. However, that is why its awesome to live at home. You see… i can go buy a rental property instead. Rent it out to another family which will create passive income. Its like getting my mortgage paid off for free that i can resell for profit in the future when i decide to movie out of my house at age 28. So is moving in with your parents really unwise? You tell me…

  3. Jeff @ Stay Thrifty says:

    85%??? Wow, that’s a shocking number! When I graduated I probably should have moved home but I was stubborn and wanted to make it on my own terms… of course that meant extra credit card debt, but it was worth it in the end.

    I would also add “dont be afraid to push” to the list, I know too many people who have kids freeloading for way too long. Theres nothing wrong with a couple years but after a while you gotta give the baby birds a nudge out of the nest.

  4. I lived with my parents my first yr out of college. Worked my tail off substitute teaching and doing food service. I don’t remember paying them anything, but I did a lot of cooking and household chores.

  5. Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager says:

    I lived with my mom for two years after college, just to save money to buy my own home. It was a great decision. I’m not sure it would have been as successful if my mom tried to mother me the whole time. We’re super close and it was more like living with a roommate than a mom.

  6. Get Out of Debt Guy says:

    We took advantage of the down real estate market and bought a townhouse that we can turn into a rental when our rebounder moves on.

    • Philip Taylor says:

      So your rebounder is in the townhouse now, Steve? That’s a pretty sweet idea. I think I’d be more prone to do that as well. Keep them at bay.