Still Living With Your Parents? That Might Be a Good Thing
Amanda Abella — Our Money
As a personal finance writer, I’m often asked for my favorite money-saving strategies. My answer might be a surprising one: Move back home.
Me and my friends from the multiethnic Miami neighborhood I grew up in often joked about our parents never wanting us to leave. Both my brother and I moved back in after college. In my first column, I discussed how these two things—our Cuban-American heritage and our “boomerang kid” status—are inextricably linked. Living together, regardless of age, is just what we do. And it just so happens to offer a ton of benefits, both for our finances and our well-being.
But for white America, multigenerational living hasn’t been the norm in decades. In the first half of the 20th century, extended families often lived together, but those numbers started to decline when affordable suburban single-family homes took hold. By 1980, only 12 percent of the population lived in multigenerational homes, according to data from the Pew Research Center.
When the Great Recession hit, many young adults like me found themselves moving back in with their parents, unable to find a job or afford rent, and multigenerational living took off. In 2009, 51.5 million adult Americans, 17 percent of the population, lived with family. By 2014, the last year data is available from Pew, the number had climbed to 19 percent. And researchers proved something I’d seen with my own friends and family—growing racial and ethnic diversity was giving a boost to the cohabitating lifestyle. According to the study, Asian-Americans made up 28 percent of those living in multigenerational homes. Latino and black families made up 25 percent each, while white Americans accounted for 15 percent.
As someone who spent seven years back at home living with my parents, and a grandparent, and a sibling, I’ll be the first to admit it gave me a leg up financially and perhaps even psychologically. It isn’t just about saving on rent (though, you will do that). Moving back home has many long-lasting upsides for your entire family.
For starters, communal living allows everyone to contribute to the same financial pot. For some people, the thought of a young adult moving back in with mom and dad conjures up the cliché of a spoiled millennial sitting back with a nice glass of rosé, happy to coast by while their parents take care of everything. But that’s mostly just a fantasy. When my brother and I found steady jobs, we started taking the financial pressure off our parents. We’d pitch in for the family cellphone plan, buy groceries, and help out with utilities and other homeownership costs. When my mother retired with a pension half her usual paycheck, I offered to give my parents a large sum of money because my business had finally stabilized. They’d done so much and been so supportive that I felt like it was the least I could do, but of course, they didn’t take me up on it.
Aside from free rent, I got to stay in our family’s neighborhood, a place I wanted to live in after graduating, but also a housing market that would have been unaffordable for most of my twenties unless I gave up on my saving and investing goals. Knowing what a stupid move this would be for me in the long run, I stayed home to keep my expenses low. My brother was able to do the same.
On the psychological side, having the financial assistance allowed me to pursue my dream with greater ease. I currently run a six-figure business I bootstrapped from the ground up. I used my own money over time to grow it and I have zero debt today. While other people can stomach balancing major risks with high living expenses, I’m not one of them. Knowing I had a safety net at my parents’ home made it easier for me to pursue the career and financial opportunities necessary to build my business.
And our being at home made a big difference during a challenging time. Shortly after my grandmother moved in with my parents, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. If you’ve ever experienced this, you know it’s a complete shock and very difficult to navigate at first. Finding—and qualifying for—the right healthcare can be a maze of confusion and delays. In our case, it took almost a year for her to qualify for a program that would help cover the cost of care.
During that year, I helped my mother care for my grandmother during the day while my brother and father were out of the house working. On nights and weekends, we all took turns giving her medication, feeding her, and generally making sure she was OK.
My brother and I were glad to help our parents and our grandmother until things settled. Our grandmother helped raise us as children, and now it was time for her grandchildren to take care of her when she needed it. For our parents, our daily assistance gave them time to focus on finding my grandmother the best long-term care.
Everyone being there also had a bigger communal benefit. Stress is a leading factor in a laundry list of health problems, and chronic stressful situations like the one with my grandmother may even induce depression when the high-stress level collides with biology and genetic predisposition, according to Harvard Health. Living in the same household weaved a strong, immediate support system, which helped us all manage our stress.
Beyond that, living with my parents helped me see them in a new light. While your family can drive you crazy, when you live with them as an adult you realize that your parents are also human. My family grew closer during this cohabitation period and now we all make important decisions—like my grandmother’s care and rental property dealings—together. I’m not saying we never butt heads, but we know we have each other’s backs, and that goes a very long way in dealing with the uncertainties of life.
On my end, there is no way I would have been able to accomplish as much as I have financially without the considerable cost-savings and support living with my family offered. Had I let my pride get in the way, I probably would have been in debt up to my eyeballs trying to keep up with the high cost of living in Miami, meaning my dreams of starting a business may never have seen the light of day. I was so accustomed to living with other people that even after I’d built up my income and moved out, I still got a roommate to split costs with.
While “being on our own” in a single-family home or apartment may still be the American dream for most people, I’m glad an experience many minority and immigrant communities take for granted is now being seen for the savvy financial decision it is.