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Faith and Finances - Adult children living at home — what to do

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It can be a blessing for everyone, if you set some ground rules up front

Phil Lenahan

With the unemployment rate for young adults age 20–24 still hovering near 14 percent, and the rate for recent college graduates still over 7 percent, it has become more common for young people to extend the time they live with their parents before establishing their own households. In fact, the percentage of 18- to 34-year-olds living with their parents has increased from 27 percent before the financial crisis to 31 percent now.

While this may not be how parents and young adults expected things to evolve, that doesn’t mean that it can’t work out well for both. But if it is to be a good experience, it’s important to set ground rules up front that everyone agrees to. How can you determine if allowing your young adult child to extend their stay in your home is workable? You’ll want to consider several factors.

The most important consideration is knowing your child. Proverbs 22:6 comes to mind: “Train a boy in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not swerve from it.” Has your young adult embraced their Catholic faith? Are they living in a responsible manner? If so, having them in the home for an extended period of time, properly managed, can be a blessing. If they are rebellious, you may want to think twice about having them remain in the home, especially if there are younger siblings who will be influenced by negative behavior.

Setting expectations
Before making a decision to have an adult child stay at home, parents need to assess their financial situation and make sure resources don’t end up being used on the child that they need for other purposes, including retirement and the education and formation of younger children. Depending on the situation, an adult child can cost a few thousand dollars for just food and utilities, to over $10,000 if parents were to pay for transportation, insurance, clothing, phone and entertainment. Of course, I’m not recommending that parents continue to pay for all of these things, but some fall into the trap of doing so.

It will be important to set financial, work and around-the-house expectations for your child. Will you charge rent? If so, will it cover just room, or room and board? Whether you charge rent, and how much, will probably relate to how responsible your child is. My recommendation is that even for a very responsible child, rent be charged — even if modest — so they participate in the financial obligations of the household. When it comes to other expenses, I think it’s best in most cases if the child pays for all of their direct expenses, including transportation, insurance, clothing, phone and entertainment.

There should be an expectation that adult children work full time, even if they think the job is less than a perfect fit for their education and skill set. Around the home, there should be an expectation that the child will be a positive influence and help with chores as appropriate, especially if the rent being charged is a sweet deal.

On values-type issues, weekly Mass attendance should be an expectation, especially if there are impressionable siblings in the home. I recall one instance where parents allowed their son to move in with his girlfriend. That should be a nonstarter.

If you want an extended stay at home by an adult child to be a blessing for everyone involved, make sure to create a workable plan before you decide. Knowing your child and the state of your finances are two keys to making a good decision. God love you! 

Phil Lenahan is president of Veritas Financial Ministries and author of 7 Steps to Becoming Financially Free. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Phil Lenahan

Phil Lenahan is president of Veritas Financial Ministries and author of 7 Steps to Becoming Financially Free. Contact him at [email protected].

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