Boomerang Kids

Sigh … your kids are out on their own. The house is tidy and quiet. You don't need to stop by the store every other day for milk, bread, and orange juice. You and your spouse or partner are free to come and go as you please. You've even started playing tennis together again for the first time in 15 or so years.

Just when you think you've got it made, one—or maybe more than one—of the kids is back.

There are about 65 million boomerang “kids” between the ages of 18 and 34 who still live at home with the folks. The reasons are many. Some young people try, and find out they simply can't manage on their own. Some experience emotional, health, or psychological problems that prevent them from living on their own. Others simply realize a good deal when they see it, and continue to hang out where life is easy and they've got it made.

If you're making life at home so wonderful that your child is reluctant to leave, you need to take a look at what's going on and decide how you'll handle the situation. Perhaps you don't want him to go. While that may be understandable, it's probably not the healthiest situation for your kid. Providing free room and board, along with laundry and housekeeping services, isn't giving your son a very accurate view of the real world.

While we all love our kids, most of us don't want them hanging out with us forever. It's natural and healthy for children to move on and establish lives that are independent of ours.

Experts give the following advice for dealing with those boomerang kids who just can't seem to leave the nest.

  • Determine an amount of time the adult child will stay with you. Help him to set a goal of getting out on his own. Offer to have him live with you for a year, and then urge him to find his own place.

  • Encourage your dear one to get out on her own by saving the rent she gives you while living at home, and giving it back to her—with whatever interest you've earned on it—at the end of a year. Do so, however, with the stipulation that she uses the money to cover her first month's rent or to pay the security deposit on an apartment.

  • Determine up front what she's expected to contribute. Discuss what you expect her to pay to live at home, and what she'll do to help with household chores. Will she be responsible for doing her own laundry, for example?

  • If your child's not working and can't afford to contribute financially, make sure he does his part in other ways, such as lawn work or cleaning.

  • If your child is in trouble with credit card or other debt, resist the temptation to bail him out. Do, however, encourage him to meet with a credit counseling service to work out how he'll repay the debt.

  • Be sure she has the insurance she needs. If she's no longer covered under your health care policy and has no health care benefits of her own, she may need to get individual coverage. Also, make sure she has auto insurance.

  • If your child is a full-time student under the age of 24 or earns less than $2,900 and you're footing the bill for more than half of his support, you may qualify for a tax deduction. If you're a single parent providing more than half of the support for your adult child, you may be able to get a tax advantage by filing as head of household instead of a single taxpayer.

Whatever you do, don't make your child feel that she's failed by coming back to your home. She may be no happier about the arrangement than you are, and likely feels bad that she's had to come home.

Discuss problems and issues as they arise, be straightforward about your expectations, and be patient while your child gets himself back on his feet.

More on: Family Finances


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Personal Finance in Your 40s and 50s © 2002 by Sarah Young Fisher and Susan Shelly. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.

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