The following post is from staff writer Melissa Batai
When I was 18, I went off to college. I came back a semester later to attend the community college. I lived at home free and clear while I attended school full-time and worked part-time as a tutor. Two years later, I transferred to a university two hours away where I completed my degree in English in another two and a half years later.
Soon, I was back to living with mom because without a higher degree, an English degree is not much use. I lived with mom for another 2.5 years until I went off to graduate school at the age of 27. Between the ages of 18 and 27, I had lived with my mom five of the nine years.
The second time I lived at home, after I got my B.A., I paid my mom rent and paid for my own groceries. Thankfully the rent she charged was cheaper than rent for an apartment would have been because I was making a dismal $16,000 a year as a secretary.
My experience bouncing in and out of living with my mom was not unusual. Many 20-somethings do this. US News reports, “According to the Network on Transitions to Adulthood, based out of the University of Pennsylvania, the number of 20-somethings living at home has increased by 50 percent since the 1970s.”
What was unusual was that my mom expected me to be financially independent. I paid her rent, I bought my groceries, and when my mom and I went out to eat, I paid for my own meal. There were no hand outs from mom.
Many of my friends and even their parents thought my mom was being terrible. As her daughter, I should be able to live with her without paying rent.
I disagreed. I didn’t mind paying rent. I wanted to be (relatively) self-sufficient.
I last lived with my mom 15 years ago, but with the economy now, I see more and more 20-somethings moving back in with their parents. But it’s not just moving in.
I see parents assume all financial responsibility for their grown children. The “children” who might be 25 or older live with their parents rent free. The parents pay for groceries, utilities, and even spending money for their kids. The “kids” meanwhile are often not employed. If they are employed, all the money they make is considered “fun” money that they can spend freely buying clothes, going to clubs, going to bars or taking part in outdoor activities like skiing that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford.
We have a family friend whose son is 52. The only time he has not lived at home was when he was briefly married. He’s unemployed more often than not, and his parents still subsidize him.
My Question to You
Are parents doing their adult children a disservice when they pay to subsidize the child’s lifestyle? If so, why are they unable to stop paying at some point? When should a parent stop paying for their child’s meals out, entertainment, etc?
If a parent is paying for a child’s expenses, are they doing so at the expense of their own retirement?