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My adult kids live at home. Space is tighter and costs are higher, but it might be the best way for them to save enough money to buy a house.

Jordan Pandy   

My adult kids live at home. Space is tighter and costs are higher, but it might be the best way for them to save enough money to buy a house.
  • Alex Gonzalez, 56, had two of his adult children move back home after they graduated from college.
  • He doesn't charge them rent, but asks that they use that money to save for a down payment on a home.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Alex Gonzalez, 56, a financial advisor for money-advice platform Thrivent in Bloomington, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis. The conversation was edited for length and clarity.

Gonzalez and his colleagues recently published a study on the increasing number of adult children who have moved back home with their parents due to housing-market unaffordability and student loan debt.

We've got three adult children, and two of them have boomeranged after college.

One is 26 and one is 22. Our daughter, the 26-year-old, has been back with us for about two years, and our youngest son has been back for about the same time.

I'd characterize their moves home as proactive.

My daughter had a relationship change and we wanted her to move on with her life and build towards the next stage. My son was in a rental situation that didn't work out. The lease came to an end, and his friends were going different directions. He wanted to save up some money for a home purchase. And now that's what both of them are doing.

The pandemic created some economic challenges. I look at my daughter's first employment, and it wasn't quite what she was hoping for or planning on. I also look at the low interest rates from the pandemic, trying to prop up the economy. That caused some inflation, which caused an increase in housing prices. It's so intertwined economically.

There are so many cascading effects. Housing stock is low, pushing up demand. Interest rates — people don't want to move out of their homes when they have good interest rates. They don't sell because they know they're going to get into a new mortgage with higher interest rates. So there are a lot of factors.

I lived at home after college, too

I was boomerang kid.

I graduated from college in 1990. There was a recession then.

I had a hard time finding a job, so I moved home for about three months after graduating from college. That was a challenge emotionally. It was tough, but it gave me incentive to get out as quickly as I could.

I wouldn't say that my children have enjoyed most of it, too — I remember how that felt when I was their age, and I wanted to move out. There are generational differences between my generation and their generation, but I think they want to move on with their lives.

I think they're pretty happy. They, I'm sure, would like their own space and some of their own rules, of course. But I think they're mostly happy.

Space is tighter and costs are higher

We intentionally downsized when our youngest went off to college. We sold our single-family home and moved into a townhome.

We were also intentional about that, figuring, "Well, we'll probably get a little bit of boomerang." We knew our kids might have some kind of transition period.

We have four bedrooms — three of them are legal bedrooms — so we have the space to do it, it's just a little bit tighter than we were planning on for an extended period of time.

Utilities have gone up. That's reality. I'd say utility costs have increased 10% to 15%.

When there are more humans in the house, you use more of those utilities, more groceries, more garbage, more recycling — just all of those logistical things.

We ask our kids to help out with groceries. They buy things like laundry detergent and certain groceries. Our youngest son buys the laundry detergent. He complained about how expensive it was, and we were like, "Yeah, welcome to life, son."

We've had to put some home projects on hold just because they're living in the space. We were planning on making one bedroom a guest bedroom and we haven't set it up.

We want to set my son's bedroom up for future grandkids. That does take some remodeling work, et cetera, and we can't do that now, of course.

We're looking forward to more elbow room in the next stage.

We don't charge rent, but our kids are saving to buy

Our deadline, per se, isn't time-related. It's goal-related.

Their next housing situation will likely be owning a home — for both of them.

My wife and I aren't charging them rent, but we are asking that they put the rent that we would have charged into a savings account that's building up for a home down payment.

They learned some of those disciplines from an early age, and now we're just continuing to reinforce them. There is none of this playing-video-games-in-the-basement kind of thing.

They're working full time; they're participating in their 401(k)s; they're enrolling in the group benefits at work. They're on their own health insurance. They're paying for their cellphones.

They're realizing all of these expenses in life are expensive — that life is expensive. We're teaching them financial planning.

There are pros and cons to virtually every situation in life.

We've looked at the kids living at home again as a blessing. We feel like we're blessed that our adult kids want to spend some time with us. We do things socially, we take some family trips.

We're looking at it as a really unique stage in life — an opportunity to get to know our adult children in a different way and enjoy this stage with them, while they're building up some cash for their next stage in life.

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