Maintaining a Happy Multigenerational Home

Jul 10, 2017

MoneyLife100Ever hear stories about a time when parents, children, and grandchildren all lived together in one home? Well, that trend from days of yore has definitely returned. Almost 61 million Americans—or 19 percent of the population—live in homes that include two or more adult generations, or one that includes grandparents and grandchildren, according to Pew Research. That’s nearly the same rate it was in 1950, and up from a low of 12 percent in 1980. A multigenerational home can be joyous and fun for the family, but it can also pose some challenges. The Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA) offers advice on the best ways to make it work. 

Establish Expectations

To minimize misunderstandings and hard feelings, it’s important to set down expectations and responsibilities. Who is going to do the household chores? Will responsibility for meals and shopping be shared? It may make sense to assign responsibilities or ask family members to volunteer for the tasks they prefer. If there are more people than cars, how will vehicle use be determined? Which sections of the house will be open to all and which ones are private? Who gets control of the remote? Should adult children let their parents know if they’re going to be away for the night? Are there rules for bringing home visitors or entertaining friends? Start discussing questions like these and others that apply to your own situation to ensure that misunderstandings don’t disrupt your happy household. 

Figure Out Finances

Who will pay for what is another critical issue for discussion. If an aging parent or adult child moves in, will he or she be expected to contribute to rent or mortgage, groceries, or other household costs? If they can’t afford to pay, are there other ways they can contribute, such as helping out with home maintenance or child care? Once you’ve hashed out these issues, put the decisions in writing so there are no misunderstandings. Also, note that adult children and parents could yield additional exemptions for your annual income taxes.

Bring Siblings into the Conversation

When one sibling moves an aging parent into his or her home, it makes sense to determine what responsibilities the other siblings will have, including paying for a portion of the parent’s living or medical expenses. If the parent needs a great deal of care, families should also discuss whether siblings will help care for the parent on weekends or other times to give the primary caregiver a break and whether they will be on call to take the parent to doctor or other appointments. Sharing responsibilities can prevent disagreements and help keep the main caregiver from feeling overburdened. 

Anticipate Renovations

It may be necessary to budget for renovations to accommodate the needs of aging parents. You might have to add a bedroom to the first floor if stairs will be a challenge or widen doorways for a walker or wheelchair. Bathrooms may need to be updated, too, to allow for accessible showers, sinks, and toilets. And whether the new resident is an older parent or an adult child, some kind of addition or renovation may be necessary. 

Don’t Neglect Your Own Needs

As you bring family members together under one roof, remember to keep doing what’s best for your own financial future. That includes making regular contributions to your retirement plan, managing your debt wisely, and continuing to save for other short- and long-term goals. Your time together will be more enjoyable if you feel secure about your own financial situation. 

Consult Your CPA

Planning ahead and talking through changes in circumstances are two of the best ways to succeed with, and truly enjoy, multigenerational living. If you have questions about any financial issues facing your family, such as tax dependency tests, be sure to contact your local CPA for informative, customized advice. To find a CPA in your area or for more financial tips, visit
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