In the mid 20th century the normal age for kids to move out and begin their careers was somewhere between 18 and 20. Some even did this younger. College was optional as there were plenty of job opportunities as the American industrial age was booming. People often got married and had families in their early 20’s as well, a fact that scares the bejeezus out of someone like me (who is closing in on 30 and isn’t even close to that phase of life.) But that’s not what this entry is about.
It’s about the boomerang generation, otherwise known as Generation Y. The people with parents who helped them get through school and spent a fortune to educate their kids only to find them back on their doorstep in four years. Young adults are living with their parents in record numbers, some into their 30’s, and the trend seems to be growing stronger every year. It’s making college look completely worthless (and it may very well be.) What is going on here?
Could it be that young adults these days don’t have a desire to grow up? Is there some sort of crazy Peter-Pan complex that is sweeping the nation in a cultural pandemic? I doubt it. If anything, I’ve found that people my age are just as desiring of independence as their older counterparts were years back. We may be “aging” more slowly, but I would argue that this only fuels the fire of the desire for independence. Think about the 16-year old who borrows, then crashes his dad’s car. Sure, his first taste of independence didn’t go so well. His dad isn’t going to be happy. But young people who get their first taste of living away from home probably don’t “want” to move back in with their parents anymore than this kid will never want to drive a car again. Once a young adult gets their first taste of independence, they will want more.
A far more likely reason for the boomerang generation is that the state of the middle class is abysmal compared to where it was in the 70’s. People in the 1970’s had more disposable income compared to their expenses, even with the beginning of an eventually stagnating economy. Also college wasn’t nearly as expensive and definitely not required. Now, you need a master’s degree for anyone to even take notice. Fun times.
I moved out of my parents’ home when I was 19, went to school, moved back for about eight months when I was 23, then moved out again and never looked back. Currently, I share a one bedroom apartment with my girlfriend on the outskirts of Portland where we pay almost $800/month just for rent. Factor in our heating, electric, and gas expenses and it quickly balloons to almost $1,200 just to live where we do. I worked hard over the years to put myself in a position where I never had to move in to my parents’ basement, and I don’t receive any financial help. I am lucky. Many, many people around my age either:
- Live at home with their parents OR
- Receive some financial help from their parents/friends/spouse to help them live
It is very, very difficult to make it work in the financial climate of today, and it is only going to get worse with the gas prices where they are (which, incidentally, are actually LOWER than they should be.) The rising cost of living is also prohibitive. I know some people my age who are doing quite well too, but they are all either entrepreneurial or are in the tech industry and have an advanced degree. I’m actually a bit in both camps, except for the advanced degree.
Disappearing Social Stigma
If you live at home with your parents after graduating from college, don’t feel bad! This lifestyle is becoming more socially acceptable the economic conditions become more challenging. In fact, sometimes it is a good thing, because while you live at home you can think more clearly about a career path that is right for you. Sometimes school just confuses and confounds you rather than makes things clearer. You could also start a money-making muse of some kind without having to worry about finances as much or letting a 40-hour per week job eat up all your time.
Overall it’s important to remember that there is no “wrong” or “right” way to live your life. Don’t listen to naysayers. As long as it is right for you, and it helps you think more clearly about what you want to do with your life (especially after college) then it can be a good thing.
University of Shame: Credit Card Offers for AlumniJune 10th, 2010
Wise Student, Foolish Student (Part 3)March 24th, 2010
Wise Student, Foolish Student (Part 2)March 23rd, 2010
Wise Student, Foolish Student (Part 1)March 20th, 2010
The Perpetual StudentMarch 28th, 2009
Sarah November 7, 2008 at 3:34 pm
I moved in with my in-laws recently. I spent six weeks (a mere six weeks!) between paychecks. My husband was still working. Nevertheless, we fell so behind that we couldn’t make our mortgage payments. We have to give up our house (for sale or foreclosure) and are living with his parents. It is completely a matter of necessity for us. I work three jobs and he works full-time with benefits, but it’s still not enough to live on our own. What with car payments, school loans, credit cards (from short periods of unemployment), car insurance, life insurance, health insurance, and the like, we can’t afford rent. College is worthless and so is this economy.
I don’t want to live at home. In fact, it’s extremely detrimental to my mental health. Most of us don’t feel like we have a choice – we’d live without health care, without food, in substandard housing, or we’d live with our parents. So we choose to live with our parents.
Mike November 12, 2008 at 10:44 am
I’m sorry that you have had such a difficult time of it recently. I hope that things get better for you. I definitely understand – you are not alone. The market is really in an awful state right now. People are getting laid off and it is difficult for us freelancers to find projects and keep any kind of steady income going.
Even since I wrote this article in the summer two more of my friends have moved in with their parents (in one case) and in-laws (another case.) Perhaps once things get better in the market (could be awhile) things will start to improve.
We really messed things up by building our economy on a mountain of debt.