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Living with Mom and Dad: A New Normal

A Pew study shows a rise in boomeranging despite the better economy

The economy is recovering and jobs are more plentiful, so your boomerang twentysomething is moving out, right?

Wrong, according to a Pew Research Center analysis released July 2015.

Based on U.S. Census Bureau data, it shows more Millennials are now living with their parents than during the Great Recession. This is despite higher levels of employment for the 18 to 34 age bracket, and a slight increase in their median wage.

Student loan debt is one obvious reason for the trend. But according to Pew, that’s only a factor for about a third of young adults who return to the nest. Even those with little debt and who didn’t attend college are staying put with Mom and Dad.

Why go out and get my own apartment that would cost at least $1,000 a month if I could stay with my parents and build up my bank account?

— Elise Povejsil, 25

Pew reports on numbers and not “whys.” But the the facts suggest that “additional factors beyond education debt are impacting the decisions to co-reside with family.”

I wondered about those factors driving the incremental climb. Is a cultural shift afoot, one that makes the U.S. more like other parts of the world where it’s common to find twenty- and thirtysomethings living at home until they marry?

Clear Advantages

I didn’t have to hunt hard to find Millennials who moved back home. As soon as I put out a call on Facebook, I heard from two of my nieces. Elise Povejsil, 25, lives in Chicago, Ill. She graduated from DePauw University in Indiana in 2012 — blessedly debt–free — and accepted her parents’ standing offer to move home. She was earning money working in marketing, she says, but quickly saw the advantages of returning to her childhood room.

“Number one, location-wise, where they live (close to Chicago) was nice,” she says. “And number two, why go out and get my own apartment that would cost at least $1,000 a month if I could stay with my parents and build up my bank account? If had that opportunity, why not take it?”

After about two and half years of living at home, Elise had paid off her car, started a savings account to give her a cushion in case of emergency and socked away the maximum allowed into a Roth IRA and her work 401(k).

“A big piece of it for me was setting up the nest egg so I could have flexibility down the road and have options,” Povejsil says.

Hunting for a job brought my niece Polly Ziegler, 27, back home to Palo Alto, Calif., after earning her master’s degree in statistics from the University of West Virginia. But high housing costs have kept her there, even though she now works as a data scientist for Allstate.

“I would be paying most of my income to rent if I didn’t live at my mom’s house,” Ziegler says. “And with housing prices going up, the life goal of buying a house becomes daunting if you’re paying rent.”

Another young female acquaintance said she’s moving back home to save for her wedding next year and hoping to build a down payment for a house post-marriage.

A New Normal

One thing these three women have in common with Madison Owen, 23, who moved back home to Northville, Mich., last year after graduation from Denison University in Ohio, is parental support for the idea of returning.

“We saw she couldn’t pay loans, buy a car, cover insurance and afford an apartment,” Owen’s mom Maureen says. “She is slowly balancing it and taking on her own bills. We wanted her to save a little, too. Thank God she can be on our insurance.”

With parents seeing the necessity and young adults seeing the practicality, it seems as though the “loser” stigma of moving home — which photo essayist Damon Casarez deftly captured for the New York Times and spoke with us about last year — is lessening.

In fact, parents and adult kids alike are discovering that it’s pleasant to be under one roof again.

“We have enjoyed having her here, as she is truly a different person than when she left five years ago for college,” Maureen says of Madison. “She taps into us for guidance here and there as she deals with stress from her job.”

My niece Elise says that moving back wasn’t easy at first, since she had to re-adjust to having her parents ask about her whereabouts and what time she’d be home. But soon they came to co-exist with ease.

“They learned they don’t need to be so hands on,” Povejsil says. “I really enjoyed living with them those couple of years. It was a lot different than in high school or even coming home from college in summers. We were able to talk about a lot more things — they became my friends more.”

She heard some tales about over-drinking in her parents’ youth, which she found highly entertaining. But on the serious side, she used them as a sounding board.

“You’re just starting out in life,” Povejsil says. “You don’t have huge knowledge of what to do about some relationship or work or money questions. They were awesome advisers. Any question I had, we could discuss it. I didn’t have to wing it alone. I could draw on their experience and wisdom.”

So maybe there is a new world order coming in the U.S., where adult children grasp that their parents want to and often can help, and where parents bask in the respect and affection they receive in return. All together. In one nest. But only for a couple of years, right?

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