How To Help Your Adult Children Get Back on Their Feet After They Move Back Home

senior parents in the kitchen with adult children
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Traditionally in American society, adult children leave the home not long after they turn 18, with the understanding that they won’t be coming back other than to visit. But in times of financial uncertainty (we saw it profoundly during the Great Recession) grown children commonly move back in with their parents to save on rent and other expenses until they get back on their feet. 

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The pandemic reignited this trend of kids moving back in with their folks. According to a 2020 Pew Research Center analysis of monthly Census Bureau data, 52% of young adults resided with one or both of their parents, up from 47% in February of the same year. These grown children are called “boomerang kids,” and what parents with the means and space to accommodate them could turn them away? It’s not ideal, yet parents tend to make it work–perhaps for a little too long. 

The question for parents can evolve from, “How can I help my child in her time of need?” to “How can I help my child get back to work so I don’t have to keep footing her expenses?” 

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Financial experts provided GOBankingRates with answers.

More: 20 Things Your Kids Can Learn From Your Retirement

Collect Rent

“Budgeting will help both parents and kids determine a reasonable rent charge,” said  Tanya Peterson, VP of brand at Freedom Financial Network. “This is important for several reasons: It introduces adult children to (or keeps them current on) the type and amount of expenses they will incur when they move out and live on their own. By requiring a rent payment, it helps ensure that kids do have some income stream. It helps parents offset the additional expenses they are incurred by having the adult child living in their home.

“Some parents who are able will save rent payments they collect, with the intent to give to their child when they move out, perhaps to help furnish their new place or even help with a down payment on a house purchase,” Peterson continued. “If parents make this decision, it can be wise to wait and share the news with the adult child only when he or she is ready to move out; otherwise, it could take away the incentive to pay rent.” 

Give Them a Reasonable Timeline

“If your children are dependent on you in terms of monthly allowance, or phone support, cutting them off financially would be abrupt,” said Alex Williams, a CFP and the CFO of FindThisBest. “You should provide them with a certain time period where they can organize their monthly finances, and look for a way to support themselves financially. Moreover, set appropriate milestones and your children can start with one thing at a time.”

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Help Them Establish a Budget

“If your children are becoming financially independent, it does not mean that they can spend unlimited amounts of money on themselves,” Williams said. “The majority of these adult kids (may not be) fully aware of their monthly expenses, and that they might require more than they earn. Help your children to establish a budget where they can cut down on unnecessary expenses and find ways to save their money over time.”

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Set Expectations for Work

“Young adults may not have luck landing a job in their chosen fields right away, and may be experiencing COVID-related delays,” said Peterson. “But they still must figure out how to make some money to pay for their own expenses — as well as understand that in living at home, they are adding to their parents’ expenses. That means that young adults can take jobs as cashiers, waitstaff, nannies, etc. – basically take advantage of the current economy and make money. Parents can help in this endeavor by setting these expectations.” 

Make the Cut: The Top Expenses To Cut From Your Budget in 2021

Provide Them With Resources

“As parents, you should give useful advice to your children which will help them strive through the period of becoming financially independent,” Williams said. “Enlighten them with the best financial management practices and useful mobile applications that can help them track their finances.” 

Set a Move-Out Date

“If the situation is working out well (which, often, it does), it’s easy to maintain the status quo,” Peterson said. “But both parents and adult children need to remember that the childhood home really needs to be left behind at sometime. Living on one’s own is part of growing up. To that end, parents can work with kids to set a target date for moving out — ideally, even before the child moves in. Even if the child is not employed in their chosen/ideal job or career by the time that date arrives, it is important to uphold the commitment. It may mean that the child needs to find a roommate (or two), and up the pressure on their job search. But without a firm date, it’s all too easy for financial dependence to continue.”

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Be Transparent in Your Communication

“Be very clear when you break the news to your children that you’ll no longer be financially supporting them,” Williams said. “It is vital to make them understand that this decision is not because you don’t care about them, but for their own long-term benefit, so they’ll be able to provide for themselves even after you’re gone. Give them a sense of empowerment, so they actually look forward to fending for themselves.”

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Last updated: July 23, 2021

About the Author

Nicole Spector is a writer, editor, and author based in Los Angeles by way of Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in Vogue, the Atlantic, Vice, and The New Yorker. She's a frequent contributor to NBC News and Publishers Weekly. Her 2013 debut novel, "Fifty Shades of Dorian Gray" received laudatory blurbs from the likes of Fred Armisen and Ken Kalfus, and was published in the US, UK, France, and Russia — though nobody knows whatever happened with the Russian edition! She has an affinity for Twitter.

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