I should have taken the letter sent from my journalism school—the one informing parents of soon-to-be graduates about the current job market and not to be taken aback by brief unemployment—a little more seriously. In my mind, I was going to get a job a month out of college and would then be living the writer’s dream (or struggle, depending on who you talk to)—surviving in a one bedroom apartment with nothing more than my MacBook Pro and a few other necessities.
It’s not until two weeks before walking across the stage that it hit me: I was graduating with two unpaid summer internships and a load of student loan debt. With basically no money saved from my campus job and parents who were willing to assist until I could get on my feet, it made sense to return to my pre-college abode. So on that Tuesday, I emptied out all the items from my campus apartment and moved back home with my parents—hence, my life as a “boomerang kid”* began.
I had friends moving into apartments in their hometowns, others doing travel stints abroad and one or two moving hundreds of miles away, yet I was back home. While I was happy for them, I felt like I wasn’t doing enough and was regressing back to my teenage years. That wasn’t exactly the case, but moving back in with your parents after four years of independence will have you thinking otherwise. My parents have sacrificed so much for me; I want nothing more than to just take care of them in return. Although it’s unrealistic, my inability to support them 100% after college was disappointing.
It wasn’t until a recent content meeting that I changed my way of thinking about my current living arrangement. My coworkers reminded me that it was a financially smart decision; some even remarking they have and would gladly move back in with their parents or family members. In fact, a recent Pew Research Center report shows an increase in the number of Americans living in multigenerational households across the board. The study cites the economy as a major motive. Between 2007 and 2009, multigenerational households increased to 51.4 million, from 46.5 million.
Not everyone has the option of moving back in with their parents, but, for those that can, I’d urge you not to take it as a letdown. Why not approach it as a mutual, beneficial relationship?
- Start by having an honest conversation with your parents
My mother is more of the talker so she and I sat down and discussed my employment plans and financial obligations. I got to hear from her my parents’ expectations of me and what this new arrangement would be.
- Construct a verbal or written contract so both parties are aware of the arrangement
Although my parents stayed on me during the job search, as long as I was committed to my internships and actively looking for a full-time job, I was able to stay at home. That commitment also included assistance around the house. When I did get a job, that commitment grew to include my student loan payments, credit card bill, and any other expenses.
- You’re home, but don’t get too comfortable
If you have enablers for parents, your short-term return could morph into a permanent situation. Unless that was part of the original discussion, you want to use this time to save and build for your future. After paying my student loans each month, I pay my other expenses and try to set aside a very small portion for future endeavors. I have to do better, but it’s a start.
I’ve scrapped my Sex and the City/Living Single illusion and tapped into my inner Suze Orman. Hopefully my current wealth-building strategy will prepare me well to fly away from “the nest.” But for now, that’s not in the cards and I’m okay with that.
*Boomerang kids are young adults that move back in with mom and dad after time spent away from home.