After my grandfather died, we were gathered at his home in Florida for a small ceremony. I knew most of the people there, but I remember overhearing one snippet of a conversation that made me burst out laughing. Imagine an elegant woman, aged 101, fully ambulatory and with all of her marbles. This was one of my grandmother’s dear friends, Bertha. As we are waiting to begin the service, another woman breezes in and approaches Bertha, at which point Bertha exclaims, “You wore THAT to a funeral?” I turned to my grandmother and asked whom the younger woman was. “Oh, that’s Bertha’s daughter. She’s 85 and Bertha never likes what she’s wearing!”
Sometimes the relationship between parents and children can get stuck in a negative feedback loop. Neither side intends for this to occur, but those old patterns are hard to break, even as we get older. Imagine how difficult it would be if adult children and parents had to live together!
I thought about Bertha and her daughter when I read a recent study from the UCLA Center for Health Policy and Research, which found that older adult children are moving back into their parents’ homes at an alarming rate. This is a continuation of a recession-era trend that was labeled “Boomerang Kids,” adult children who left the nest for a period of time, only to return to the fold for financial reasons.
But the trend has continued during the slow economic recovery, forcing many adult children home. According to the study, more than 2.3 million adult children in California were living with their parents in 2011, 63 percent more than in pre-recession 2006.
As you might expect, young adults (18-29) saw a big 56 percent increase from 2006 to 2012, but hold on to your hats, Baby Boomers: there was a 67.6 percent increase in adult children ages 50-64 moving back in with their parents. The UCLA study indicates that the latest permutation of the trend is Baby Boomerangs!
"A college degree is no guarantee of a job today, and an unprecedented number of families have been forced to return to a multi-generational household," said Steven P. Wallace, associate director at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and a co-author of the study. "Until the economy provides the kinds of jobs that allow all adults to be self-sufficient, families will need help."
These multigenerational family living arrangements are often the only option for the younger generation, but it can crimp the older generation’s lifestyle, increasing household expenses by 50 percent or more for many families.
“What’s a mother to do?” asked my mother when we discussed the trend. This was the most common reaction when I asked a number of parents about the idea of their 50-something children returning home. “I’d do what I would have to do…it’s my kid!”
That’s all well and good, but what are the logistics of these arrangements? Any potential move requires a tough conversation, where both sides understand what they are about to do and what the expectations are. Some of the questions to cover include:
- Can the children contribute to household expenses and if so, to what degree?
- Will this be a temporary or permanent living arrangement?
- If permanent, it may be necessary to communicate that fact to other adult siblings and perhaps to make adjustments to estate documents, which would make other siblings “whole” with other assets from the estate.
- What happens when the older generation dies--will the adult children remain in the house?
- What will happen as the parents’ age? What if they need the equity in their home to move to a different residence or an assisted living facility?
Parents are always going to help their children in need, regardless of age, but all families need to be smart about the financial assistance provides and discuss all aspects before entering into the arrangement.