Five Tips for Living Peacefully with “Boomerang Kids”

Jun 15, 2016

MoneyLife100 More and more adult children are still living with their parents or have moved back in with them. According to a 2016 study by the Pew Research Center, more Americans ages 18-34 are more likely to live with their parents than in any other living situation. Parents must learn to navigate the challenges, financial and otherwise, of living with these “boomerang kids.” The Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA) offers some smart ideas.

Accentuate the Positive

It may be tempting to see the arrangement as a failure, but it’s better to focus on the positives. The financial benefits to the child include the chance to save up for the future, switch to a more rewarding job, or pay off college loans or other debts sooner. It can also lower costs for the parents if the child pays rent or chips in on expenses. Looking at the upside can help decrease stress levels.

Consider a Contract

The living situation will work best if both parents and child have a complete understanding of what the other expects. Parents should determine up front exactly how much the child will contribute to household costs and which responsibilities around the house he or she will perform. For example, is the child expected to pay rent or help out with utilities? Will he or she pay for their own food and make their own meals, or will he or she eat with their parents? Who will care for—and pay expenses for—the adult child’s pets or children? These are the kinds of questions that should be addressed early on. Parents may even consider putting together an informal contract that spells out these and other appropriate details.

Determine Your Level of Support

Understanding expectations is particularly important if the adult child is not working. In this case, will the parents pay his or her expenses and provide pocket money? If they will, should it be considered a gift or a loan? How long are the parents willing to help out this way? How much time do the parents expect their child to spend on job searches or in jobs that aren’t in the child’s chosen field but that do bring in cash? These can be uncomfortable issues to raise, but addressing them will contribute to a better living situation. Once rules and agreements have been established, everyone should make sure they stick to them. 

Respect Each Other

Parents of adult children must understand that even though their children are back under the family roof, they are adults who must be allowed their own autonomy. At the same time, adult children have to acknowledge that their parents have interests and responsibilities beyond their role as parents, and must respect their parents’ needs. Be prepared for an adjustment period in which both sides learn to see each other as independent adults.

Think about the Future

Will the arrangement last indefinitely, or will it end at a certain point in time? For example, will it end once the adult child finishes further education that will qualify him or her for a new job, or when the adult child gets a raise to a certain income level? No matter what the answer, it’s a good idea to discuss short- and long-term plans. If you don’t, it could lead to resentment and misunderstandings.

Your Local CPA Can Help

Seeking advice on concerns about boomerang kids or any other financial issues affecting your family? Turn to your local CPA. He or she has the expertise to help you resolve all your financial concerns. To find a CPA in Pennsylvania by location or area of expertise, ask family and friends for recommendations or use the PICPA's CPA Locator.

Original publication date: May 27, 2013

The Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA) is a premiere statewide association of more than 22,000 members working in public accounting, industry, government, and education. Founded in 1897, the PICPA is the second-oldest state CPA organization in the United States.

Money & Life Tips are a joint effort of the AICPA and the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA), as part of the profession’s nationwide 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy program.