POST 50
08/13/2013 12:20 pm ET

Adult Kids At Home: How Long Is Too Long?

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Americans don't speak in one voice when it comes to how long it's OK for adult kids to live with their parents after college, according to a new survey by Coldwell Banker Real Estate and psychotherapist Dr. Robi Ludwig. One big factor is the age of the parents; younger parents seem more comfortable with Junior moving back home.

Earlier this month, Pew Research released a study that said 36 percent of the nation’s young adults ages 18 to 31 -- the so-called millennial generation -- lived in their parents’ home in 2012 -- the most in four decades.

And now along comes the Coldwell Banker study showing that millennial parents are pretty much fine with grown children living at home for up to six years after college, while older parents (ages 55 and older) believe they should be out of the house within four years of finishing their education.

"It’s almost as if 27 is the new 18,” said Ludwig, who is the lifestyle correspondent for Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC. “Living at home can be a great opportunity for young adults who need some time to get on their feet, but it’s only beneficial if the time is used wisely. Our 20s are a very crucial time because the decisions we make and the lessons we learn then influence who we become as adults.”

But the acceptance of adult children living at home has its limits, said a press release on the survey. More than two in three Americans -- 70 percent -- believe that too many adult kids who live at home with their parents are simply avoiding responsibility, and 65 percent believe too many young adults are overstaying their welcome.

Clearly, it’s not an arrangement that works for everybody: Nearly one in seven Americans think children should never live at home with their parents and more than half say it prevents the parents from moving on with their lives.

But there's also one big exception: Four in five Americans (80 percent) believe that it’s okay for adult children to live at home if they are saving money to buy their own home.

“The boomerang kid phenomenon is changing the way Americans view homeownership," said Ludwig. "While parents of adult children may have considered themselves empty nesters as soon as their children left for college a generation or two ago, we’re seeing that mindset change, and it’s having an impact on when parents decide to downsize into a home that better fits their lifestyle needs during the next phase of their lives.”

In other words, the parents can't sell the family home because the family is still in it.

Ludwig added, “When an adult child returns home for an indefinite period of time, it can create a situation of uncertainty. Parents may put certain financial or lifestyle decisions, such as downsizing to a new home, on hold until they have a better understanding of what their children need. Living at home can be an important factor in helping young adults transition into independent adulthood, but there have to be goals and expectations set in order to get the most out of the situation.”

She believes that rent should be charged and a target end date set.

“The economy may be a reason to move home temporarily, but parents can’t let the state of the economy get in the way of living their lives,” said Ludwig. “The key to deciding if this living situation is right for parents, children and families is figuring out whether it will help the child develop and thrive. Adult children and their parents should use the time at home to move forward and grow, rather than regress and risk becoming perma-children or perma-parents.”

Watch how one family with a recent college graduate living at home feels about it.


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