August 2014

The Boomerang Generation

Author: Lily Bartell

Remember when kids were itching to move out to be on their own? When, as a parent, you pictured your child packing up his or her undersized car to head off on new adventures? What if that child stuck around for a while?

It is rare for a young adult to be 100 percent willing to forgo independence and move back home. However, an increasing number of college students in my generation are doing just that. With one in five adults between the ages of 18 and 35 still living with his or her parents, clearly more and more students are leaving home for college or other types of education or work and boomeranging right back to their parents’ no longer “empty nest.”

The high cost of living is plaguing many of these students who are realizing that being out on their own is just too darned expensive. That average of $80,000 worth of student loans to pay off doesn’t help the situation either.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in the 1981-1982 school year, the average cost per year for all collegiate institutions was about $8,400. That seems like pocket change compared to the tremendous increase to an average of over $19,000 in the 2011-2012 school year.

In addition, students who are exiting college are having a terrible time finding jobs within their field or jobs in their field which pay young adults fresh out of school enough to support their lifestyles. With 40 percent of college graduates unemployed and 16 percent able to find only part-time positions, returning home to save money seems logical.

Due to the unaffordable costs of a college degree and the lack of fulfilling jobs in the workplace, students find themselves in quite the sticky situation. Some resort to jobs outside of their field in order to simply make money; some still move home despite accepting a job in their field with low entry-level pay; and others simply wait for the “right” job to come along.

Twenty-three-year-old Jennifer Blanchard from Fishers, Indiana graduated in 2013 with a degree in sports management. She moved back in with her parents following graduation and recently accepted a job in Indianapolis as a program coordinator for a sport and event retail company. She has been living at home for the last 14 months.

“I moved back home to save money,” she said. “My primary expense right is gasoline (which is a lot considering my commute is 50 minutes each way). I also pay for my entertainment and any travel I may do.”

Blanchard says her parents do not ask her for rent money, and she is preparing to move out of her parents’ home in the near future. “I’m very excited about it [moving out]. We will see how I’m feeling after the first rent check comes due,” she said.

She also jokes about her excessive trips to her favorite store, Express, and acknowledges that the frequency of those trips will dwindle as she embarks into the “real world” on her own.

What about the young adults who decide to go straight from high school into the work force? Are they “smart” for doing so and not racking up detrimental debt, or are they “behind” for not earning a degree?

Matthew Smith attended the Junior PGA, a junior golf academy, on Hilton Head Island, during his time in high school. After graduation from Hilton Head Island High School, he moved back to his hometown of Wantaugh, New York and immediately entered the workforce. He works as the program assistant for The First Tee of Nassau County and is working toward his dream job as a tour member of the PGA and/or the European Tours.

“My decision to go straight into the workforce was a combination of financial circumstances as well as career planning. I was offered several golf scholarships to go play in college, but the sheer cost of student life is something I wouldn’t be able to handle,” he said.

Smith didn’t want to have the burden of leaving school with a massive amount of debt when his profession does not necessarily call for a degree. “My position allows me to earn a living and at the same time fund my competitive golf career,” he said.

Smith sees the benefits of living at home, but he also pitches in more than some of his peers. He doesn’t pay rent, but he does pay for his car insurance, cell phone service, and one week of groceries for his family each month. He currently doesn’t have any plans for moving out of his parents’ house, but said he will do so when he feels he has given his all toward his goal of becoming a professional golfer.

Taking a hop over the pond, in Europe and in other parts of the world, the boomerang generation is generally called the “dependent” generation, because, according to the Guardian, nearly half of all European adults are living with their parents. They may be leaving home and boomeranging back, but some simply haven’t left yet. It’s possible that part of this trend is cultural, but the statistics seem extremely high for it to simply be “something they do.”

As the job market in Europe has declined, fewer young people are working and/or keeping jobs for long periods of time. Also, the people remaining at home with their parents continue to increase in age. In Europe, adults age 30 and even older are staying at home.

Shelly Tobin is from Cork, Ireland and works at a local grocery store while she puts herself through school. You guessed it she also lives with her parents and younger brother. In Ireland, 42 percent of people ages of 18-29 live with their parents, and Tobin is no exception.

Tobin feels lucky. “There are a lot of perks to living at home; thankfully I do not have to pay rent, and my mother washes my clothes and cooks our meals,” she said.

Tobin also sees the trend of staying at home among her peers because of the financial benefit and in order to be closer to family. “A lot of my peers live at home with their parents, because they have jobs near their homes. It makes sense to stay close instead of wasting wages travelling to work,” she said. Tobin’s plans for the future are to get her own apartment or share with friends after graduation, but she knows she wants to stay close to home as she feels very connected to her family.

As these young adults are boomeranging home, or staying home, parents are getting to know a more mature person who is growing into adulthood, and their children have to deal with certain aspects of living at home which they didn’t have to growing up. For instance, a parent might ask a child to pay rent, pay for groceries, be more involved with housework, etc. The child might want to come and go as he or she pleases, yet solely rely on the parents for everything, and may have trouble adjusting to being at home after time away.

Roberta Rand Caponey, senior editor at Family Life Communications, suggests that parents and children keep an open line of communication. Parents need to make sure adult children know what is expected of them, whether it is use of a car, money due, or household chores. Also, these children need to give their parents a short-term and long-term plan.

Caponey suggests that parents keep an eye on whether or not the child is avoiding adult responsibilities. If they aren’t looking for a job, aren’t working at all or paying their fees, or if they are losing respect for their parents’ home, the parents may want to ask, “Is my child getting too comfortable?” If the answer is yes, she suggests that you sit down with your child and ask how he or she is feeling and if the child has plans for the future. If not, help with the plan.

No matter if your child has moved back home with or without a degree, has moved home after giving it a try in the world, or hasn’t left the nest just yet, open lines of communication and trust are fundamental aspects of parent-child relationships. Boomeranging back home will probably never go out of fashion, but if we keep raising strong young adults with goals and drive, having them back may not be so bad.

To all my boomeranging counterparts: go clean your room.

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