It’s almost time for you to retire. You’re supposed to be footloose and fancy-free, enjoying life in a way you could only dream of when you were clocking in at the old 9-to-5.
But there’s something between you and that long-awaited life of leisure. Something that might sabotage all your best-laid plans. Something sucking up your valuable resources, devouring ever-increasing amounts of cash, eating all your food, and camped out in your basement.
It’s your grown-up kids.
Does this sound like a re-run of The Twilight Zone? All kidding aside, it’s reality for the parents of over 22 million adult children still living at home, the greatest number ever since 1949, according to a Pew Research study.
A little bit of togetherness is nice, but some parents are finding out that too much can be trouble.
“Those young adults are soaking up a significant amount of the financial resources of their near-retirement or already-retired parents,” says Pew. More than 90% of adult kids living at home have no deadline for moving out. Only 10% pay rent. And a fair share of them have no idea how their live-at-home status affects their parents’ finances.
Here are 8 tips to help the kids without sinking your own boat.
Do invite your children to move back home if it’s a temporary move so they can save up for a wedding or their own place, they’re going back to school, or need some time to get back on their feet.
Do spell out before they move back in how long they expect to stay, what they’ll contribute to house expenses, and what house rules you want them to follow.
Do consider charging rent – even if you put it aside and return it to your child as a starter nest egg when he or she moves out.
Do encourage your adult child to build good financial habits – even while living at home – by saving a percentage of income in a Roth IRA, 401k account, or other account.
Don’t pay for extras like cars, phones, gas and insurance if the point is for them to get a job and learn how to budget their own expenses. How often do we see grown kids overindulging on luxuries their parents can’t afford, all because they aren’t paying for their own basic living expenses?
Don’t do for them what they can do for themselves. “One of the most common patterns parents and children fall back into is the over-/under-functioning pattern. This happens when you fall into the trap of doing too much for your kids, which results in your children doing too little,” says coach and therapist Debbie Pincus.
Don’t offer help you can’t afford, or financial assistance that puts your own plans on hold. Kids often overestimate how much their parents really have, and underestimate the resources it takes to pave the older generation’s way to retirement. Your kids have plenty of time to make their way in the world, but for you, the clock is ticking.
Don’t forget your real mission. “Your real job as a parent is to prepare your kids to be on their own in the world. Your goal is to help them toward self-sufficiency,” reminds Pincus. Family dynamics expert and author Ruth Nemzoff echoes that sentiment. “The art of parenting is tricky,” she says. “It is difficult to know when you are enabling your child to remain irresponsible and when you are facilitating his or her launch into an adult life.”