Whether we attribute it to a decline in marriage rates, poor job prospects, student loan debt, technological improvements, or generational shifts, times have certainly changed for young adults. One major topic which my clients bring up centers around their adult children moving back home. While this was not a common conversation ten years ago, I come across this topic more often nowadays. I’ve heard statistics such as “a third of young people, or 24 million of those aged 18 to 34, lived under their parents’ roof in 2015”, and look at it as my job as an advisor to provide advice on how to best navigate through this new landscape.(1)
Within this topic, a common question that I try to help my clients answer is this: Should I charge my adult children rent if they move back home? What I’ve found is that every situation is different, so what may work for one family, may not work for another. However, in this article, I hope to provide a framework to consider when trying to answer the question.
Depending on your own experiences and values as parents, as well as the specific circumstance of your adult child, you may insist that they live at home rent-free. For example, if your adult child is being responsible by saving a good share of his/her paycheck for a house down payment and you want to reward that responsible behavior by letting him/her live at home rent-free, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. For other parents, such an assistance for an adult child does not make sense, and no matter what the circumstances, would believe it only right to charge for rent if living at home.
No matter where you fall on this spectrum, it is important to set expectations with your adult child. For instance, if you decide that it is out of your comfort zone to charge your child rent for living at home, then what other mechanisms can you put into place to make sure he/she does not get too comfortable? In my experience, I’ve seen parents create timelines and goals, as well as make it crystal clear that the adult child must still pitch in, in other ways such as chores or errands. While it may be a tough conversation initially, imagine the alternative. What if your child gets too comfortable living at home and would rather stay at your “hotel” rather than spread their wings in the real world!
Whether rent is being paid or not, the adult child will have a particular reason as to why they want to or need to live back at home. If they are simply being lazy and are not making an effort towards adulthood, it is crucially important to provide clear expectations. As parents, you want to always help and support, but you never want to enable. Therefore, in this example of being lazy, a parent could set expectations of applying for X number of jobs per week, or something similar.
How Much To Charge For Rent
If you do decide that it makes sense to charge your adult child rent, how much should you charge? In my experience, parents usually charge well below market rates. As parents, you want to help your child out, but you also want to build up their personal finance awareness. How much you charge will also be highly correlated to what your daughter or son can afford, and could change over their time living with you. By having an open conversation and being clear about why you will be charging them, it should not be hard to fall on a number that makes sense for your family.
There are also other ways in which your adult child could pitch in that could be alternatives to paying rent. Such alternatives could be household chores or errands, cooking meals, or even helping parents with their own work. In addition, it could make more sense to have your adult child pay for other household expenses (instead of rent), such as internet, tv, or groceries.
Another alternative could be to make their stay at your home contingent on them depositing money into their own retirement account. This way, you are teaching them how to save and plan for the future.
Finally, if you want to help them grow personally, you can make their stay at your home contingent on community service or volunteering. This is a win-win as well!
This experience can also be thought of as a great teaching moment for your child. Specifically, parents in this situation are in a unique position to extol the virtues of budgeting and personal finance when their child needs it most. If the adult child in your household has to pay you rent and decide how to allocate their small-to-no income, they will quickly learn how to budget. As a parent, you may decide to get creative and instead of using the rent money for expenses, stash it (and maybe even match it) into a savings account for your child. They will be happily surprised with a small nest egg to leave home with!
Other considerations that I make sure clients consider is their own budget and retirement goals. If your adult child is going to come back home and live there, you’ll want to make sure that adding another adult to the household does not negatively affect your own goals. Because you’d anticipate that household expenses will go up, you must make sure you budget for them, based on your expectations and timeline with your adult child. Again, by having an open conversation with your adult child, I am confident that a reasonable game plan can be implemented with success.
Having this conversation is not always an easy one, but I hope that the considerations above help provide better ways to think about it. If you’d like to discuss your situation further, call my office at (949) 221-8105 x 2128, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.