Should you charge your kids rent if they move back home?

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Census Data Shows More Kids Moving Back Home

The trope of a 20-something taking up refuge in his parents' basement is a now tired way to describe millennials. Unfortunately, it became a stereotype because it's true. Millennials have been known to graduate college, quit work or just opt out of adult life and scurry back to the nest.

But for every millennial who ran home to mommy and daddy, there is a set of parents who allowed a grown child to linger in a state of arrested development without consequence. Which begs the question, what is a loving parent to do?

Charge the kid rent, of course.

Before boomers and millennials alike end up in a blind rage, understand that extolling a little tough love is exactly the way parents can lead a stray millennial back to the expressway toward adulthood.

The Return Home Trend

There is no shame in needing to head back home for some time to figure out next steps. A lot has changed in how the world now works. Not that long ago, it was standard that many young men and women would graduate from college and get married just a few months later.

Today, few millennials are leaving college and heading straight down the aisle. Plus, the job market was slow moving for those who graduated four to eight years ago. And let's not forget to mention the massive student loan burden. So a precedent was set that those who elected not to leap into graduate school or were struggling to find employment would return home – for a little while.

A little while sometimes turned into years. And hordes of graduating millennials each May still return home (even though the job market has warmed back up).

This phenomenon has been aided by parents willing to let their children take up residence at home and return to a life of mom and dad cooking, cleaning, doing laundry and fulfilling other parts of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

Living at home is just easy.

Why Millennials Need to Cough Up Rent

Just because living at home is easy doesn't mean it should be free. The easier the lifestyle, the harder it will be for a child to feel motivated to strike out on his or her own and learn the life skills necessary to survive outside the protective bosom of mom and dad.

This is why millennials living at home need to pay rent.

The demand for rent means the millennial needs to get a job – even if the job is stocking shelves at the grocery store or whipping up drinks at Starbucks. Keeping idle hands busy and dealing with obnoxious customers in exchange for a pay check barely above minimum wage will help motivate young millennials to find a career and put that degree to good use.

Paying rent will also force a child living at home to learn how to budget for paying student loans, going out with friends and purchasing whatever they consider necessities. This assumes parents aren't back on the allowance bandwagon and subsidizing the child's stay at Resort de Mom and Dad.

Now, asking for rent from a child doesn't mean it needs to be at market value. You don't need to charge the same amount he or she would pay to live in an apartment in your town. About $100 or $150 a month would do just fine.

What to Do with the Money

The money a child contributes to rent could go toward paying household bills. If you use this method, be sure to share with your child how you are spending his or her money. It will help rationalize the need to pay rent if your child sees their money is helping to pay off the mortgage, pad the grocery budget that dropped since he or she went off to college or pay off a parent PLUS loan taken out to help him or her through college.

Parents who don't feel the need to use the money collected from a child can quietly create a "parental 401(k)." This will force a child to save money without him or her knowing it. When it comes time for the child to move out, parents can present the nest egg in a form of a check, or deposit it into a bank account. If parents are feeling really generous, they can provide a percentage match like an employer would. This is a great way to plant a seed to encourage a child to put money in an employer-sponsored retirement plan once he or she starts a job.

Alternatives to Charging Rent

Many parents have trouble with the idea of charging their child rent. It doesn't feel right. That's fine, but it doesn't mean your nesting millennial should get off without contributing to the family pot.

Instead of asking for an upfront monthly fee, you could require a child to buy the family groceries or put money toward one of the monthly bills such as water, electric or cable. Or you could just return to the glories days of the chore wheel.

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